Solv­ing home­work bat­tles re­quires wide range of so­lu­tions

North Penn Life - - Opinion -

Whether a child is in ele­men­tary school or high school, the an­tic­i­pa­tion of nightly home­work can ig­nite con­flict in many homes. Many chil­dren, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, have a tough time be­gin­ning their as­sign­ments each night, fail to com­plete their work on time or do not show the in­vest­ment in home­work that re­flects their true po­ten­tial.

Par­ents of­ten ag­o­nize over how in­volved to be in their child’s home­work strug­gles and ques­tion what the right ap­proach is to ad­dress th­ese all too fa­mil­iar sce­nar­ios.

To as­sess the ori­gin of a home­work prob­lem, par­ents need to do some de­tec­tive work, start­ing with the ba­sics. Make sure that your child is be­gin­ning as­sign­ments at a time when he or she is alert, which is typ­i­cally in the af­ter­noon. While some chil­dren can man­age work­ing later in the evening, many do not have ad­e­quate con­cen­tra­tion at that time of day, which can make home­work stress­ful.

Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties can be very en­rich­ing, but too many com­mit­ments can make chil­dren feel over­whelmed, ex­hausted and un­able to muster the re­sources for pro­duc­tiv­ity by the time they re­turn home. Fig­ure out whether your child can com­plete school­work in one sit­ting, or whether as­sign­ments need to be bro­ken up into chunks with small breaks in be­tween.

In ad­di­tion, cer­tain chil­dren ben­e­fit from a longer amount of down time af­ter school be­fore be­gin­ning home­work, par­tic­u­larly those with at­ten­tion­span is­sues. En­sure that your child has a quiet place to work and that his level of fo­cus is not com­pro­mised by cell­phone or com­puter in­ter­rup­tions.

If th­ese ba­sic pa­ram­e­ters are in place, and your child is still strug­gling, there are ad­di­tional ar­eas to in­ves­ti­gate. Make sure your child has the or­ga­ni­za­tional and time man­age­ment skills to plan for long-term as­sign­ments and more com- pre­hen­sive tests, di­vid­ing the project or the study­ing into man­age­able por­tions which are recorded on a large, vis­i­ble cal­en­dar. If home­work is con­sis­tently tak­ing much longer than it should, there might be at­ten­tion-span is­sues or a learn­ing dif­fer­ence that could be com­pro­mis­ing your child’s abil­ity to com­plete work ef­fi­ciently. Con­sul­ta­tion with the child’s teacher may be help­ful in de­ter­min­ing whether the child is man­i­fest­ing sim­i­lar dif­fi­cul­ties fin­ish­ing work in the class­room. A re­fer­ral for psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional test­ing can help to clar­ify whether un­der­ly­ing learn­ing is­sues might be present and can lead to spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tions for de­fus­ing home­work bat­tles.

Dy­nam­ics in the par­entchild re­la­tion­ship can also come into play when home­work com­ple­tion is an on­go­ing strug­gle. When chil­dren feel their par­ents are too in­vested in their aca­demic per­for­mance, they might go on strike be­cause they no longer feel their school­work is their own. Some par­ents may in­ad­ver­tently fuel a child’s per­fec­tion­ist ten­den­cies by pro­vid­ing too much crit­i­cal feed­back and too lit­tle praise, which in turn may cause the child to avoid home­work for fear of mak­ing mis­takes.

By con­trast, when chil­dren feel their par­ents are too dis­con­nected from their aca­demic world, it may be hard for them to feel mo­ti­vated be­cause they per­ceive that their achieve­ments don’t mat­ter. Find­ing the right bal­ance be­tween ap­pro­pri­ate involvement in a child’s scholas­tic en­deav­ors while al­low­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to grap­ple with as­sign­ments in­de­pen­dently will un­doubt­edly play a role in de­creas­ing home­work stress.

Dr. Caryn Rich­field is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist prac­tic­ing in Ply­mouth Meet­ing. She can be reached at 610-238-4450 or at dr-crich­field@aol.com

Cop­ing Dr. Caryn Rich­field

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