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:
- 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.
- Communicate frequently with your child's teacher. Keep up-to-date with what work is required, and with what is happening in the classroom.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Limit TV and computer time. Find educational programs, reading material, creative projects, and activities that reinforce the content of the homework.
- Make reading and learning an important family pursuit that is fun and exciting.
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.
Step 5 Ask her what assignment she wants to work on first. Put it aside.
Step 6 Now have her take all of the other books and papers and put them away in a closet or another room. Say to her, “See, they don't exist anymore. You're only going to concentrate on the moment, doing the work in front of you.”
Step 7 Set the clock for the desired work time. Have her work until the alarm goes off, and then take a five-minute break. Repeat until all homework is finished.
Troubleshooting: If your child is young, or has severe homework anxiety and doesn't believe that breaking homework into small pieces will make it less stressful, try this: show your child an apple and say, “I want you to try and eat this apple without taking bites from it or cutting it up into piece.” Of course it won't fit into her mouth. Then have her take bites or cut up the apple. “See, now it is easy to eat. It's the same with homework. We're going to take small bites out of it so it goes down easier.”
You can make a positive difference in stopping homework anxiety for your child. The caveat is that it will take effort, determination, patience, practice and time on the part of both parent and child. Although progress may be slow don't give up; eventually it will work to you child's benefit.