Is Your Child Struggling With Homework? Here’s How You Can Help
Your child comes home from school, empties his or her backpack on the table, and groans. Immediately, there’s frustration, dread, and maybe even a little anger. And just like that, the nightmare of your afterschool routine begins. As a parent, you try to help, but finding the right words to comfort your child is a challenge—not to mention you haven’t seen their class material in years, so trying to be a useful resource for your child’s homework difficulties feels near impossible.
Your child is struggling with their homework and you feel powerless. But what if there was a way you could identify why they’re struggling, support them, and provide resources (both in and out of your home) to make your afternoons run a little smoother?
From homework strategies to navigating potential learning disabilities, here are a few ways you can support your child’s learning and foster confidence when it comes to homework.
How can I tell if my child is having homework difficulties?
Before you can truly help your child succeed, you have to identify the problem. Sometimes this is as simple as picking up on your child’s behaviors and physical needs. For some children, the transition between school and home is difficult, so when they arrive and are expected to begin working and engaging their brain right after a long day, it feels overwhelming.
Start by supporting your child’s transition and removing some of the basic challenges. Is your child hungry and needs a snack before he or she begins working? Does a rest or small reward need to happen before he or she can refocus on class material?
These small changes can be a good start because they help set up a more positive environment. But if your child is truly having homework difficulties, you’ll notice that the problem is not about the transition or outside factors; it’s more about the child’s inner self and abilities.
Pay attention to what your child says when he or she opens the backpack. Do you hear the words, “I have too much homework” on a regular basis, regardless of the load? Is the homework taking too long for him or her to complete (or complete independently)? Does your child get frustrated with homework? Is your child crying during homework or having homework tantrums?
These can be telltale signs that the homework struggle is beyond a simple tiredness or lack of focus after school. For some students, expressing their challenges can be difficult, so be observant and pay attention to your child’s body language and words. This can help you determine whether the issue is an attitude problem or a deeper learning challenge.
What are the causes of homework difficulties for children?
You’ve identified that your child is struggling with something beyond stubbornness, lack of motivation, or a challenge in school-to-home transition. Now what?
Understanding the reasons why your child is having homework difficulties and some of the reasons behind his or her challenges is the next step. This starts by identifying your child’s levels in comparison to his or her workload. Is there too much work? Is it too hard or too easy? Is your child expected to perform independently but doesn’t feel able to? Or, is there potentially something bigger, like a learning disability?
Here are a few causes of homework difficulties to take note of:
- Boring homework: Before jumping to conclusion about your child’s learning and potential challenges, determine whether your child is simply bored by his or her assignments. Boredom can cause frustration or an inability to attend.
- Non-engaging tasks: Along the same lines, a non-engaging task is one that requires minimal focus or understanding of the material. Beyond being simply bored, your child may not be invested in the material, or not required to sustain his or her attention. As a result, there’s a lack of focus.
- Time-consuming: If a task is too challenging or takes too long to complete, this can be another obstacle for your child. Perhaps the length of the task is daunting, and so the difficulty stems from feeling helpless to complete the assignment independently.
- Lack of physical rewards: If your child is extrinsically motivated (which isn’t a negative thing!) then perhaps a lack of rewards or praise can leave them feeling discouraged. It may be beneficial to ask your child about the homework grading process, or to consider implementing some rewards at home if you notice this is an important factor in your child’s confidence.
These are just a few reasons your child may be having homework difficulties. But you’ll want to take note of any behaviors and struggles beyond this. It’s important, especially as a parent, to pick up on the warning signs for learning disabilities.
Does your child exhibit a lack of sustained attention? Issues with motor control? Letter or number reversals? A difficulty in processing information or confusion about what’s being expected?
These are just a few questions to ask yourself as you consider your child’s struggles. Paying attention to these warning signs can be instrumental in understanding what your child’s truly struggling with and what he or she needs.
My child is struggling with their homework – What can I do?
As a parent, your time with your child afterschool is invaluable to their independent practice and learning. They’ve been introduced to concepts, practiced them as a class or small group, and now it’s their time to reinforce the learning independently.
If you’ve been noticing that quite often (if not every day), despite the workload, your child is feeling overwhelmed or stressed—it may be time to intervene.
Here’s what you can do to help your child, especially if he or she is struggling.
- Create a homework to-do list: Your child’s school may provide each student with a planner or assignment notebook. Although this is a great resource for keeping your child organized (and you should encourage your child to use it!) creating an additional ‘home’ checklist can be a helpful way to keep organization at home, too. Plus, there’s the satisfaction of crossing off items each day that your child will learn to associate with your home routine—which is a good thing!
- Prioritize homework: One of the easiest ways to create a positive home learning experience is to prioritize homework. It may or may not work for your child to do homework immediately after school, especially if your child has activities or practices, but making it one of the top focus points in your routine will help your child to understand the importance, as well as keep both of you from feeling rushed or stressed at the end of the night.
- Walkthrough assignments: As a parent, you play a critical role in helping your child feel successful with homework. Some students will need more support than others (which is perfectly fine!). Be sure to sit down with your child and go through assignments together. This will help them to clearly understand expectations, as well as open the door for them to ask you questions. It also is a good time to spend together and shows your child that you’re invested in his or her learning, too.
- Develop homework motivation tips: If your child is unmotivated, he or she might need a little ‘push’ in the right direction. Here are some homework motivation tips to help you encourage your child, especially if you notice a lack of self-discipline.
Successful homework strategies for your child
Homework is a daily part of your child’s life. And as a parent, you are a critical component of that. It’s important for you to help your child create successful homework strategies that you can support them with, and that they can learn to do independently as well.
This will help them to build confidence and hopefully help the afterschool routine to run a little smoother.
Create a basic homework strategy
A basic homework strategy looks at the process of starting, working through, and finishing homework. Talk with your child about your expectations and their teacher’s expectations. Create a plan for where you will do homework (a consistent spot is best), when you will do homework, and if/when you’ll take breaks.
Also talk about how to ask for help, what to do if your child gets stuck to avoid a battle, and where the homework goes when it’s finished so that your child is prepared for school the following morning.
Do some homework planning with your child
If your child has a project or several smaller assignments that need to be completed by the end of the week, sit down with your child (and potentially his or her teacher as well) and discuss planning. Perhaps you want to break larger assignments into sections, have certain days dedicated to certain assignments, etc. Creating this plan will make clear expectations and understanding of what to do each night.
Consider homework accommodations
Talk with your child and his or her teacher about accommodations that your child may need. For example, requesting more time to complete an assignment or stopping after a certain amount of time has passed.
If your child has an IEP, be sure to look at the accommodations listed and implement them at home. Be sure to verify they’re being used at school, too.
Encourage your child to use a homework planner
If your child’s school provides a homework planner or assignment notebook, show your child the best way to use it for recording homework and keeping track of due dates. This is a simple way to help them be more accountable. Plus, it will help you to better assist them as well.
Build a homework calendar
Beyond the homework planner, help your child create a homework planner for larger assignments or projects with extended due dates. This can be something you can have at home, or take to and from school. It’s another way to help your child think ahead and prepare him or herself for future grades.
Implement homework strategies for students with learning disabilities, if applicable
If you suspect a learning challenge, your first step is to have your child take a learning disability assessment to determine what, specifically, your child is struggling with. From there you can create individualized support strategies.
If your child has a learning disability, be sure to reference his or her IEP or talk to the Special Education support staff at his or her school to create specific strategies for home.
What to do if a learning disability is causing homework struggles
If you suspect that your child’s struggles with homework are caused by a learning disability, getting an outside learning assessment or help will be a great way to learn exactly what you can do to help, especially if you feel clueless. You’ll also want to reach out to your child’s school in order to get support and troubleshoot ways to help your child’s learning both in and out of the classroom.
Here are a few other suggestions:
Talk to a homework counselor
If your child’s school has a homework or guidance counselor, talk to him or her about troubleshooting your afterschool routine in addition to your child’s teacher. The counselor may have strategies you haven’t thought of, or provide assistance in addition to your child’s teacher. The counselor may also offer some tips specific to your child’s learning needs.
Implement disability-specific homework strategies
If you’ve identified your child’s learning disability (or even if you haven’t and you’re simply basing your strategies off of his or her biggest struggles), it’s important to make a plan that’s specific to your child’s needs.
A homework strategy that works for one student may or may not work for your child, so it’s important to be open, try different things, and focus on what makes your child unique.
For students with disabilities, it’s important for all assignments to have clear and appropriate directions. As you start your homework with your child, be sure to explain the assignment in a way that makes sense for him or her and clearly states what the expectation is.
You’ll also want to use any accommodations. For example, if your child struggles with dyslexia and number reversals, it may be beneficial to have a multiplication chart out so that he or she can reference the correct numbers and be able to copy them to his or her homework sheet.
If you’re not sure where to start or have questions about your child’s specific needs, be sure to get a learning assessment if you haven’t already, or reach out to the assessor or your child’s educational therapist for additional information.
Don’t worry—There are options to help your child
Although navigating the afterschool routine and troubleshooting homework difficulties can feel overwhelming and stressful, especially if you have little to no experience with your child’s curriculum or learning challenges, there are options.
From connecting with your child’s teacher and support staff, to getting a learning assessment, to creating and implementing strategies specific to your child’s needs, you can get the answers you need and the peace of mind knowing that your child is being supported and building confidence at home.
For more information on ways to support your child outside of school or to get started with our one-on-one educational therapy for students, click here.