How to Manage Homework Stress
For most elementary school kids, especially ones diagnosed with learning and behavioral disorders, homework time can be absolute drudgery. No one wants to do work that’s boring or difficult – it’s disheartening. Combined with the fact that kids at this age are still developing skills to cope with their emotions, it can make both you and your child dread the daily battle of doing homework.
Set up a homework routine
The first step in setting up an effective homework routine is making sure your child knows what homework they have assigned. Sounds simple enough, but a lot of students with behavioral disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), have a tough time staying organized. Here are a few ideas for how to help your child remember his/her homework: keep a brightly colored folder specifically for homework, have an agenda that’s easy for kids to use, ask your child’s teacher if he/she can tape a small sign to your child’s desk reminding him to take his work home, or talk to your child about asking one of his friends to be his “homework buddy” so they can keep each other accountable.
Once your child successfully comes home with his assignments, it’s time to set up a designated homework space so that he can be focused and productive. Getting him his own writing desk, if possible, is the best way to help your child feel like they have their own area to work. Otherwise, setting him up at the dining table is also a good option. Make sure the area is free from distractions, such as a television, needy pet, or loud siblings. Lastly, establish a set time for him to begin working to build a routine.
Keep the momentum going
Getting started on homework can be hard, but having kids sit long enough to get through their homework can be even harder. An easy way to keep children motivated while doing homework is to set a timer for every task they need to complete. You’ve probably heard that breaking down large tasks into smaller ones is a good way to approach a project (since adults use this strategy too), but adding a time limit for each task also helps reduce project anxiety. This helps give children a sense of control over their work and prevents burnout.
After the timer goes off for each homework task, it’s a good idea to give your child the choice to take a quick break if they need it. This doesn’t mean going off to play for a long period of time or sitting down to watch cartoons in the middle of an assignment. Instead, encourage your child to get up and do some quick stretches, run in place, or use a jump rope.
Reward and encourage
What is your child’s favorite reward? Some kids like stickers and small toys, some like video games, others thrive on quality time with their parents. Having a reward system set up for completed homework assignments is a great way to keep kids motivated. You can set up a daily chart where you add a tally mark or sticker every time they finish an assignment. Give a small reward for that day or a bigger reward at the end of the week.
If toys and stickers aren’t doing the trick for your child, try giving them opportunities to have authority. A sense of power can be a great motivator, for children and adults alike. “This or that” choices help your child feel like they get to choose what to work on, while still completing the entire task in the end. Should you work on your math worksheet first or read the chapter for history? Asking them how long they should work on each task is another way to offer choice, it could even give them a chance to get competitive by challenging them to work against the timer.
Regardless of what kind of reward works best for your child, don’t forget that words of encouragement go a long way for anyone. Giving praise for a task well done will keep your child going when they are feeling defeated. Even corrections should be framed positively to inspire them to keep trying.
Homework can be frustrating and helping your child takes a lot of patience. However, keep in mind that the skills you teach them now, including problem-solving and perseverance, will see them through the rest of their school years. As Oscar Wilde said, "Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the results."