Helping with Homework: A How-To

Boy with head in hands behind a pile of books

Here are some tips on how to help your kids with their homework.
Image: Shutterstock

Homework will not be a part of childhood that anyone looks back at fondly. There’s nothing that you as a parent can do about that. But helping your child with their homework can be good work and can have lifelong positive effects on their study habits and their relationship with education. You just have to avoid the pitfalls that can poison that relationship.

  • You have to come at homework in a methodical manner from day one. Make plans with your child, not for them, and make them flexible so that you and your kid can adapt to any class, any teacher’s style. Keep the plans simple, and make sure there are reachable goals. Take into account your child’s progress since last year and any previous stumbling blocks. Review the plan in October and March and adjust the goalposts as needed.
  • Try to bring peace into the process, or at least to reduce stress where you can. Establishing a routine will help with this. Once again, let your kid have a say in this. If they think better after dinner than right after school, then after dinner is when they should do their homework. While you may need to keep your hand in to make sure the schedule stays consistent, trust their judgment.
  • Make sure to teach your kid that they can ask for help when they need it. There’s nothing wrong with teaching a child to reach out when they are in over their head. Their teacher will likely have office hours, or they will know a fellow student with a better grasp on the material. From about fourth-grade onwards, they should do this reaching out themselves.

Consider the bulk of plotting out a study plan part of your child’s homework. Don’t do it for them, but lead them through it with guidance. And then hold them to it, while always watching out for overload. Especially once your student gets into middle school, teachers have a tendency to forget that each child has 4-8 teachers, each assigning homework. If your student is keeping on top of their routine but still spending every waking moment doing homework, be prepared to talk to the teachers as your child’s advocate.

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