Handling the Homework Hassle

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
October 19, 2020

During this time of virtual learning, students will be completing schoolwork at home more than they may have been used to in past years. And yes, homework is still a regular part of your child's school day. If your child is struggling to complete homework, here are some helpful tips to establish a productive routine and provide some relief for children...and parents.

  • Check in every day. It is important to show your child that you care about their homework completion. Ask them about their school day and their plans for completing their homework.

  • Establish a comfortable, quiet study area. The chosen place can be anywhere as long as it is free from distractions with good lighting to perform homework or study nightly. For younger children, it may be helpful to have them in a place you can monitor them, such as the kitchen table, if this space can be quiet and limited in distractions. Keep important school supplies such as pencils, erasers, notebooks, and a calculator readily available in that area. Consider making the study area a phone-free zone.

  • Schedule a regular study time. Have your child complete homework at about the same time each day so that it becomes a routine. Some children need a break and a snack after school, while others just want to “get it done” so they have the rest of the evening free. Find the time that works best for your child.

  • Establish a daily homework schedule. The homework session should start with planning. This is a time to organize assignments and decide the order for their completion. Be sure to determine any breaks that may be needed and how long they will last in the homework plan. This will help increase your child's productivity with manageable chunks of time to complete work. Breaks may involve movement (take a walk, do some exercise) or relaxing activities (eat a snack, work on a puzzle, play with a pet), but consider limiting the use of TV or electronics during this time. End the homework session by placing completed tasks in the appropriate folder or notebook and backpack.

    • Be flexible when creating the homework plan. Children are more likely to buy into the plan if they are given choices (determining the order of assignments to complete or what activities to perform during breaks).

    • Consider having your child estimate how long each assignment will take, and then test it!  Have them time themselves so they can learn how much (or how little) time certain assignments take them.

  • Make use of a calendar to map out long-term projects or up-coming assessments. Help your child break large assignments down into smaller parts to be completed over the course of the time allotted and make plans for studying for assessments.

  • Praise your child’s work and efforts. Recognize achievements such as starting homework within 5 minutes of the scheduled homework time. Some children need a little more motivation, such as a preferred activity they can perform once they are finished with their homework.

  • Set a good example. Show children the importance of homework by engaging in your own “work” (i.e., reading) during homework time.

  • Validate your child's feelings and help them manage frustration. For children who resist completing homework, it is important that they feel heard. Let them know you understand that it can be hard to complete work at home and that some tasks can feel overwhelming or frustrating. It may be a good idea to make a list of calming activities your child can choose from when emotions run high during homework time. Let your child know you are there to help them if needed (but do not offer to complete the assignment for them). Offer to help your child communicate with teachers when you are both stuck and assistance is needed.

    • Some possible calming strategies include coloring, squeezing silly putty/play dough, taking a walk outside, completing a mindfulness activity, taking deep breaths, stretching, or spending time with family pets. Calming strategies should not include video games or electronics as those can be used as a reward when the work is done.

  • Establish clear communication with teachers. Ask about homework policies and how you should be involved. If your child is having difficulty in completing homework, let teachers know and get their support

Need More Information?

Check out the article Homework Help for Reluctant Children to learn how parents can create a nightly homework ritual that works for everyone.

The Healthy Minds Blog shares information related to youth mental health and wellness for an audience of parent, educators and community-based providers. Articles include tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community.

The Healthy Minds Blog is a collaborative project between Fairfax County Public Schools and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax (see below) initiative, designed to support emotional wellness in youth and families.

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