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Tips to reduce homework stress

By Cat Holmes
University of Georgia

School is almost back in session and with it comes homework. Unfortunately, many children think of homework as punishment, and sometimes, so do parents.

How can you reduce homework headaches? “When adults nag children to get their homework done, children look for ways to put it off – and the whole process can become a power struggle,” said University of Georgia Extension human development specialist Don Bower.

A positive attitude and good homework habits can prevent power struggles between parents and children and generally reduce household stress.

Homework helps children practice, reinforce or expand the skills they learn during the school day. Teachers say completing homework assignments is as important as attending school.

That’s why it’s important to establish “homework time”, Bower says. A consistent quiet time for homework lets children know it’s a priority. It also cuts down on arguments about when to do the work.

To determine when homework time should occur, it’s important to consider the child’s personality.

“Some children are better off completing their homework before they play outside or watch television,” Bower said. “Others need some relaxation time after school before they are ready to do homework. Choose the time and place that works best for each child, even if they end up doing homework at different times.”

The child’s needs aren’t the only consideration when determining homework time.

“Make sure an adult will be available to help during ‘homework time’,” Bower said. “Adults can read, pay bills or other quiet activities while the children study.”

Helping a child do their homework doesn’t mean doing it for them, Bower said.

“Essentially, homework is a contract between the teacher and her students,” he said. “It’s the child’s job, not the parents. Does that mean you don’t help at all? Of course not. The question isn’t if, but how.”

Many adults struggle with how much help to give children. Bower says it’s fine to work through a question or two, but make sure your child is doing most of the work himself.

“Doing your child’s homework for him may seem like the easiest short-term solution,” Bower said. “But it will wind up hurting your child down the road.”

Organization is the key for long-term projects, Bowers says.

“Many children don’t know how to break a large assignment down into manageable steps,” Bowers said. “They don’t start on it until a few days before it’s due.”

Parents can help by sitting down with the child the first night and helping them plan out a strategy. Choose specific dates to have information gathered, to complete a first draft and to finish revisions.

Research shows that completing appropriate homework successfully is a sure-fire way to promote academic success, Bower said.

“When you make homework a priority in your home, you are offering your children support, helping them deal with mistakes, teaching them to take responsibility for their own learning and helping them develop problem solving skills,” he said.

(Cat Holmes is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Cat Holmes was a science writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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