By Sharon Leuenberger, PhD | Licensed Psychologist
Summer has drawn to an end and the joy of relaxing is over. It is now time to get back into the trenches and return to school. With that comes homework. A simple word that can make some parents’ skin crawl because of the negative emotions it provokes both in the child and parent. The following are some suggestions to make homework time a more positive experience. The earlier you can develop these habits, the easier it will be as your child moves into the higher grades.
1. Establish a daily, consistent routine to complete homework. Homework should be completed around the same time every day, preferably as soon after school as possible. Consistency with this time helps your child learn/understand that homework is a priority. Also, a place should be designated where homework should be completed and where supplies (such as pencils, paper, etc.) are accessable.
2. Keep the environment distraction free. Create expectations, such as no cell phones, TV, etc. during homework time. Monitor computer use to assure that it is being used for work and not play.
3. Create expectations. Work with your child to decide when homework will be started and how long it should take to complete. If he needs breaks, make sure they are controlled. Designate how long he needs to work before he can take a break and designate how long the break will be (no more than 5-15 minutes). Monitor him to assure he returns to the task.
4. Help with organization. Make sure he knows what his assignments are and encourage him to write them down in an agenda, etc. Color code his folders and designate a certain color for each class. Make sure the homework gets put back in the correct folder (either a folder designated for homework or the folder for the specific subject). The folder should then be put into the backpack.
5. Keep it manageable. Multiple assignments and/or big projects can be overwhelming for some students. Many don’t know where to start and end up shutting down or procrastinating. Help your child break down assignments into smaller parts. If the parts are to be completed over time, then establish due dates. Work with them on how to prioritize assignments by making a list or developing a plan regarding what assignments will be completed when.
6. Reward your child. If needed, provide rewards when expectations are met. Also, remember to focus on effort and not grades.
7. Communicate. Communicate with your child’s teacher if the thought of getting through homework makes you cringe. Work with the teacher to develop a plan regarding realistic expectations (such as how long homework should take, etc.) and ask if modifications could be considered if needed.
Homework is something your child will need to do for many years to come; therefore, creating a positive experience is important. If your child struggles with homework (takes excessively long, melts down, etc.), then consider consulting a professional such as a psychologist or pediatrician to determine if something else may be going on.