Chapter 24: Homework Anxiety

Chapter 24: Homework Anxiety

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Could it be anxiety?

Some children, especially those who are struggling with reading, can simply freeze up at homework time. They may be afraid of failing. They may not be able to read the instructions or understand the assignment. Or they simply might not know where to start.

Parents should keep in mind that children struggling with homework might not simply come right out and say so. As a parent, you need to watch for signs that there’s a problem. Below are some of the signs that your child may be experiencing homework anxiety. Circle any that you have noticed in your child.

  • Saying, “I don’t care about my grades.”
  • Saying “I already know this; I don’t need to study.”
  • Bringing home lots of notes from the teacher about missing homework.
  • Telling you there is no homework assignment when you know there is.
  • Sitting at the desk for long periods of time without accomplishing anything.
  • Saying he doesn’t feel well just when it’s time to do homework.
  • Finding lots of excuses not to start on homework.
  • Angry outburst when you ask about homework.

Why homework matters

Homework is important for lots of reasons, even for very young students. It lets children practice the new skills they learned during the day at school. This reinforces their learning. Homework also helps them become more independent learners, since they usually have to organize their study time on their own. It’s also simply a good habit to get into, especially since kids will get more and more homework as they move into the higher grades at school.

Some of the things kids learn in school simply have to be memorized: their multiplication facts, for instance, or their spelling words. Homework time in the evening is the best time to go over things that must be learned by rote.

What you can do to help

Children, especially the younger ones, need adult guidance in every area of their lives. Overcoming homework anxiety is no exception. If your child is struggling with homework and you feel that anxiety plays a role, here are some things you can do to help.

  • Sit down and talk with your child – Sometimes, when children have a problem, they just clam up. Maybe they think they’re in trouble. Maybe they’re embarrassed. Maybe they simply think that schoolwork is their own responsibility and that they must try to find ways to work out the problem on their own. If you think your child is suffering from homework anxiety, sit down when you have a quiet moment and ask him about it. Tell him that by talking about the problem, the two of you can find ways to solve it together.
  • Be available – Tell your child that while homework is his responsibility, you will always be available to answer questions and provide help. Just knowing that he’s not completely on his own can help alleviate some of his homework anxiety.
  • Arrange a conference with his teacher – Tell your child’s teacher if he is struggling with homework on a regular basis. She may have some helpful tips or strategies that you can try. It’s also a good idea to find out directly from the teacher how often homework is being assigned. This makes it easier for you to know when “I don’t have any homework” is a truthful statement.
  • Create a study area – Having a comfortable and welcoming workspace can go a long way toward diminishing a child’s reluctance to face his homework. If you have space in your home, include a small desk, a lamp and a comfortable chair. Eliminating distractions such as computers, cell phones, pets and even outside-facing windows can also help your child focus on the task at hand.
  • Make sure he has some down time – Having a regularly scheduled homework time is a good idea, but make sure that your child has some down time before hitting the books. This can be as simple as an after-school snack, a little time spent on video games, or even a quick trip to the park or playground. A break after a long day at school will allow your child’s brain to be more engaged when he does start his homework.
  • Talk with the counselor – If your child is very fearful of homework assignments, it may be time to talk with his counselor. There may be other serious problems involved, and the counselor can help you identify them and offer possible solutions.