Teens and Homework: A Winning Combination
Homework in high school is definitely more intense than grade school. The switch requires the establishment of healthy habits for teens to be successful. Parents, teachers, coaches and other important adults can help teens learn what works for them.
Take Care of your Body
Remind teens that, believe it or not, their bodies have a profound impact on their mind. If a teen is feeling tired, achy, bored or argumentative at homework time, suggest they improve their own physical care. For example, tell teens to:
- Get the sleep you need. Being well rested is crucial to success in school. Teens’ natural sleep patterns cause them to have trouble going to sleep at night and trouble waking in the morning, resulting in sleep deprivation. You can learn more about changing a teen’s nighttime habits to avoid this problem by visiting this link: Sleep Deprivation and Teens
- Improve your eating habits. You can absolutely increase your energy level by changing your diet. We recently wrote another blog about healthy eating habits for teens that you can visit: Youth and Nutrition
- Improve your memory. Yes, even your brain needs exercise. There are lots of tricks and suggestions for helping memory. One idea that has been around since ancient times is explained at this link: Loci Method
Help Create a Good Environment
Some teens need privacy, others prefer people around them. Some need silence, others need music. (Studies consistently show that TV is a distraction and should not be on during study times.) Encourage the teen to find the place in their home where they are comfortable to do homework. There should be sufficient space to spread out materials. All the tools and supplies they need to get the work done should be right at hand.
Pick a Time and Stick To It
Routines are a key factor in academic success! Encourage the teen to choose a standard homework time that works for them, which will improve the chances of them sticking with it and eliminates the need for parents to keep nagging, ‘Did you do your homework yet?’
Fight the Urge to Procrastinate
Most of us put things off from time to time, like studying for a test or starting on lengthy research papers, but giving in to diversions can really hurt us in the long run. Teach teens to start with small goals if they’re facing a big assignment. Encourage them to not get overwhelmed by the big picture. Accomplishment feels great, so set small goals first, and take it day by day. Also, suggest the teen establish a time that they can “play” if they finish their goals.
Develop Organizational Skills
Teens must develop their organizational skills, just like any other skill. Mount a bulletin board or a calendar on the wall. Teach them to break down projects into small goals (see avoid procrastination above) and mark them on the calendar to plan out a project’s completion. Have them mark exam dates in one color, reports in another, etc. This book might be a good resource: Organizing from the Inside Out for Teenagers.
All teens should know where to find usable resources. Local college libraries, specific websites, and reference books are essential supplies for teens. Try: http://www.homeworkspot.com/ or http://www.infoplease.com/homework/.
Explain Studying Skills
Studying is not an intuitive skill that students just know. Inform teens of proper studying basics, such as: taking notes as he’s reading a chapter; summarizing what he has read in his own words; making his own flashcards for quick review of dates, formulas, etc.; and reviewing for a test the week prior (cramming the night before is ineffective).
Parents should absolutely be available for helping their children with homework. However, there is a line between helping a child understand the instructions or checking to make sure they did a math problem correctly versus actually going on the computer and finding the websites they should use or suggesting the words they should state in their next sentence. With school, teens need to be accountable. What grades they earn are the grades they have earned, and in no way should these grades reflect on the parents. After parents have given them the time, the space, and the tools they need, the teen needs to do the learning.
What If Nothing Works?
If you find that nothing is helping a teen with his school work, and it isn’t a discipline problem, please get help. Sometimes a tutor can work or visiting the school’s guidance office: counselors are trained to find problems that other people may not be able to see.