Beating Homework Stress
Now that the new school year is in full swing, homework is likely to be a regular requirement for your teen. While homework can be a good way for teachers to ensure practice of concepts and mastery of a subject, it can be a source of stress among students. We have compiled some suggestions from experts on how to take the stress out of homework:
Set a Routine
Many teens are over-scheduled. They are in school for most of the day and then they have afterschool clubs, sports, and other activities. If your teen doesn’t schedule a certain time to do homework, they will likely struggle to fit it in simply from lack of time. By establishing a standard time to complete homework, your teen will be much more likely to finish it on a regular basis. In addition, experts note that when homework time is predictable, our brains are more prepared for studying which makes your teen more effective with their study time. Setting a routine allows homework to become a natural habit for your teen so that it gets done quickly and with less arguments.
Create a Space
Every student should have a consistent place to do homework that is organized and free of distractions. Encourage your teen to find a place at home where they are comfortable and can focus. There should be sufficient space to spread out materials. All the tools and supplies they need to get the work done should be nearby. You should also talk to your teen about how they think they work best. Some teens need total privacy to study, while others prefer people around them. Some need complete silence, while others need music. These choices are small but they can make a big difference in giving your teen a positive perspective on homework. That said, parents should establish a rule requiring no TV or cell phone use during study times. Studies consistently show television, social media, games, texting, and other Internet use are unhelpful distractions.
Studies demonstrate that studying in 20- to 50-minute segments is more beneficial than longer segments. Let your teen know they should take a 5 to 15 minute break between subjects or whenever they start to feel frustrated. Sometimes just walking away from a confusing assignment for a few minutes can give you the renewed energy to solve the problem.
Feed the Brain
Provide your teen a healthy snack before or during homework or study time. Nuts, vegetables, and whole grains are good choices to fuel the brain.
Break Down Projects
Most of us tend to put off large projects. They can feel overwhelming which leads to procrastination, especially for a teen. When assignments have longer due dates or more components – such as science experiments, research papers, or studying for a big test – it’s important to teach teens how to break down the larger project into smaller goals. For example, if your teen has a big exam, they might set goals to review Chapters 1-3 the first week and Chapters 4-6 the second week. Or, if they have a research paper, they might set a goal to select a topic by the end of the week, complete research by the second week, create an outline for the paper by the third week and finish a rough draft at the end of the month. While this process might seem intuitive to an adult, children must learn how to break down larger projects. Walk them through the goal setting process a few times. If your teen is a visual learner or organizer, one of the best ways to organize a large project is to print out a calendar and write in important dates (activities, practices, events, games, etc.) so that your teen can see where they have free time. This way, they can “assign” small goals during those free time moments, and the project no longer looks so overwhelming. Teaching your teen to do this will serve them well throughout their life, especially in their career.
Talk to your teen about prioritizing their tasks. Teens should always be focused on completing assignments that are closest to the deadline first. But after that, should they work on their most dreaded task first or their easiest assignment? It all depends on your student. Some people believe that tackling the most dreaded task first is better because you will have the most energy when you start, while others believe that completing an easy assignment first gives you the confidence and positivity to keep going. Ask your teen for their preferences, and if they don’t know, suggest they try both ways and see what works best for them. Prioritizing tasks will allow your teen to be more efficient with their studying.
Explain Studying Skills
Studying is not an intuitive skill that students just know. Inform teens of proper studying basics, such as: taking notes as they’re reading a chapter; summarizing what they’ve read in their own words; making flashcards for quick review of facts; and reviewing for a test the week prior (cramming the night before is ineffective).
Be a Guide Only
While it is natural to want to help your student when you notice them struggling, many parents go too far and either provide answers or even complete assignments for their teens. While in the short run you might be reducing their stress, in the long run you are setting your teen up for a lifetime of struggle. When they enter adulthood, no one is going to complete their assignments or give them the answers. High school is the right time for them to develop independent work habits. If your child comes to you with a question about their homework, help guide them towards potential solutions instead of just feeding them an answer.
Sometimes students struggle with a particular subject. No one can master every subject equally well! And unfortunately, parents often don’t remember high school concepts so they can’t always help. If your teen needs assistance with completing their homework, be your student’s advocate and find out what resources are available. Start with your teen’s teacher who might have suggestions. If that’s not helpful, speak with the guidance counselor. Most schools offer tutoring and many teachers offer afterschool help.