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Overcoming Homework Anxiety

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Updated on May 14, 2014

Most students dislike doing homework, but do it begrudgingly. Children who feel anxious about going to school or test taking may also exhibit apprehension when faced with homework. But, like it or lump it, homework isn't going away anytime soon, so it's crucial to help your anxious child conquer homework fears.

In her book, Overcoming School Anxiety, Diane Peters Mayer tells parents that how they react to their child's homework anxiety will play an important role in her overcoming it. There are important skills and techniques that aid in managing and taming the homework beast that any child can learn. Here's how you can set your child up for success:

  1. Talk to your child about her fears, find out what is troubling her, and reassure her that you support her and that together you will find solutions to her problem.
  2. Communicate frequently with your child's teacher. Keep up-to-date with what work is required, and with what is happening in the classroom.
  3. Control your frustration and anger if your child does not want to do homework. Be firm but kind about her having to complete homework assignments and tell her that you will be available to help and support her efforts.
  4. Decide with your child where her homework workspace will be. Make it comfortable and special. For example, help your child paint or decorate her own homework space or desk.
  5. Create a flexible homework schedule with your child, how much time she needs to spend, and when and where it will be done. When it is completed, reward your child with appropriate praise, time spent with you, a special TV show, and so on.
  6. Limit TV and computer time. Find educational programs, reading material, creative projects, and activities that reinforce the content of the homework.
  7. Make reading and learning an important family pursuit that is fun and exciting.  
Exercise: Managing the Homework Load  

Step 1 Decide on what rewards your child will have during her five-minute homework breaks. Ideas are to have a healthy snack, free time, a story or part of one, putting the pieces of a puzzle together, and so on—but breaks do not exceed five minutes.

Step 2 Determine how long your child will work, making it age appropriate. Start with a short time, five minutes on and five minutes off, or ten on and five off, and gradually lengthen work time as the child's anxiety eases and confidence and abilities increase.

Step 3 Tell your child that you are going to help her feel less stressed about homework by breaking up the pile of work into small pieces that she can handle. She will do homework for a predetermined amount of time and then she will get to take a five-minute rest and choose one reward, then work, rest, and so on until homework is completed. The completed work will be put away (it doesn't exist anymore), and the next assignment taken out (for right now, this is the only homework she has.) This is repeated until all homework is finished.

Step 4 Now, have your child place all the homework on the table.

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