Need help setting your kids up for success with homework?
Back to tips
- Ensure your child’s basic needs are met before they start their homework, which will lead to increased cognitive energy in the “thinking” parts of the brain. Is your child well rested, calm, hydrated, and nourished? Snacks with complex carbs and protein-rich foods provide slow-release energy that is perfect for learning. Nuts, whole-grain crackers and cheese, and raw veggies and hummus are some examples.
- Stock the homework area ahead of time with all supplies needed, which will reduce distractions (e.g., spending time looking for paper, sharpening pencils). Make sure your child has enough sharpened pencils and paper, and all other materials needed to get started. Reduce visual and auditory distractions in the homework area.
- Take a few minutes to work with your child to come up with a plan for their homework before they start, which will save time and decrease frustration. Write a list of all tasks that need to be completed on a small white board or a piece of paper. Arrange the items in an order that makes the most sense (e.g., by due date, importance). Add boxes that can be checked off once the tasks are completed, which will give your child a sense of accomplishment.
- Anticipate any triggers ahead of time and plan accordingly. For example, does your child get overwhelmed and quickly shutdown while completing math, resulting in tears and refusal?
- Will it ease your child’s anxiety if you review the steps on how to complete a problem first and then complete the first few questions together?
- Will your child feel less overwhelmed if their worksheet is separated into smaller problem sets, or divided on the page with a marker?
- Can larger assignments be broken into smaller short “mini-assignments,” building a break, reinforcement, and opportunities for feedback at the end of each segment as needed? Can the mini-assignments be completed over a few days, rather all in one night?
- Is your child able to verbalize a plan of approach at the outset for a given task, which will allow you to identify any missing steps or knowledge gaps, and to support your child to break down the task into a series of steps that can be written on a list?
- Have your child think about how they will feel after when the homework is finished (e.g., relieved, proud), rather than focusing on how they feel now when completing homework (e.g., bored, frustrated). It can also be helpful to talk about something you can do together that is enjoyable once homework is finished (e.g., “after you finish your math homework we are going to bake cookies together”).
- Build breaks into the homework period, either scheduled or as needed, but ensure that breaks are not used for task avoidance. Younger children or children with ADHD benefit from short brain-brakes every 20 minutes. Pick break activities with fixed time periods to ensure a smooth transition back to homework, and pick break activities that your child is easily able to transition from. For example, your child might enjoy watching a YouTube video for 3 minutes, which may be preferable to 3 minutes of TV that your child may have difficulty stepping away from. Use a timer to create a cut-off time, and provide a warning (when possible) before the timer goes off to ensure a smooth transition. During work periods, ensure all technology is off and away (e.g., disable text or app alerts if your child has a phone).