It’s 7:46pm. Dinner’s over, dishes are loaded, and you’re ready to relax to some much needed TV Zen time. Scandal is on tonight which fills your heart with glee, and you wonder if you’re feeling in a white or red wine mood. Then another thought hits you— your son hasn’t finished his math homework yet. All thoughts of relaxing with a glass of wine are dashed and anxiety steps in instead of Olivia Pope. A sense of dread fills you because you know that convincing your son to finish his homework is gonna be rough. It shouldn’t be this hard, right? But it is.
Let me tell you—you are not alone. Most parents struggle with the dreaded homework time. Children from the ages five and up experience the pressures of homework. And every parent, at one point or another has experienced their child’s anxiety around it. Most of the time the child or teen is frustrated either by the type or amount of homework they have. Either way you look at it, homework is stressful.
Stress at a young age can lead to an array of issues later in life. So as a parent—what do you do? Well, good question. First, you address the type of homework your child has the most anxiety around. Have them start this assignment first with you there in a supporting role. This does not mean you get to do their homework for them. It simply means you can help in brief moments and with loving encouragement.
Stress impacts the brain tremendously. So they can sometimes get ‘stuck’ on their homework, causing more anxiety to build. My recommendation is to guide your child through a couple deep breaths, have them relax, and start again. Maybe even let them play outside for twenty minutes before you have them sit back down.
As adults are allowed to cope in our different ways from stress at work, either by walking to the local Starbucks, talking with co-workers or heck—we check our Facebook! But we know that we still have to power through the stress and finish the work. Kids don’t understand this yet. Their brains are still learning and growing. We cope as adults with a quick Instagram check or email to a friend. Children are learning to cope with stress. Teach them that a quick break to shoot a couple basketball hoops or taking the dog for a walk is okay! Be sure to put limits on these breaks and eventually they will be able to do it themselves.
Now to address the amount of homework. Unfortunately as the child ages, the amount of homework also goes up. Too much homework can actually have detrimental side effects to children and teens such as, sleep deprivation, headaches, stomachaches, exhaustion, weight-loss, and stress—lots and lots of stress. If you feel that the amount of homework is getting in the way of family time, or causing too much anxiety in your child—talk to your school. Get involved and become pro-active! I recommend the books: “The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It” by Sarah Bennett, and “The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing” by Alfie Kohn. Also check out the documentary on Netflix titled "A Race to Nowhere."
At the end of the night, it’s not just you who wants to kick back and relax. Your kid does too! But unlike you, they have homework. Stress is inevitable for all of us. It is how we learn to deal with our stress that makes us successful—not the homework.
By Arielle Grossman