Create a homework friendly environment to help kids succeed
With the arrival of a new school year comes everyone’s favorite responsibility — homework.
As a parent, it can be tough to determine how to help your child complete his or her work, but making a few simple adjustments in your family’s daily routine and home may be your next assignment.
The first step is to find a location where your child is able to focus fully on their work, says Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. Keep in mind that the choice of space depends on the child and the way your home is set up.
For instance, in an open layout living area, sitting at the kitchen table while the television is on just 10 feet away is most likely not an environment suitable for concentration.
“A place with minimal distraction is ideal, whether it be in the home, such as a bedroom or office, or the local library,” says Dr. Roberts. “If the kitchen is quiet, the table is the perfect location for a child who might need assistance or may become distracted in his or her room.”
Dr. Roberts says once you’ve found an appropriate location, experiment by encouraging children to complete their homework at different times of the day before settling into a routine.
“There isn’t a right time to do homework,” says Dr. Roberts. “Some children require downtime between school and homework, while others are more successful finishing the work right away with free time afterwards.”
While setting a routine for homework is ideal, extracurricular activities and family schedules may get in the way.
“At the very least, have a consistent plan for different types of days such as a homework routine for days with activities and for days without,” she says.
If it seems your child works better when provided an incentive for finishing homework, Dr. Roberts suggests first determining if the natural consequence of free time is reward enough. If this method is not successful, consider inexpensive or free rewards.
“Treats like extra video game time, choosing what the family will eat for dinner or selecting a fun family activity for the weekend seem to work well,” says Dr. Roberts . “Also remember that immediate rewards work better for younger children, whereas older children may prefer earning daily points they can cash in for a more substantial weekly prize.”
Dr. Roberts offers parents the following tips for making homework time successful:
- If your child needs supervision to stay focused or to address the occasional question, engage in a quiet activity of your own in close proximity as long as that activity is not distracting to your child.
- Do not immediately remove a struggling child from extracurricular activities. For many children who are having a hard time with school, participation in an activity offers them the opportunity to feel positive about themselves, which can help with overall mood and motivation to better get them through homework and other challenges.
- If neither you nor your child understand a homework problem or assignment, do not panic. Try to set a good example of coping with frustration. Seek help from a friend, family member or another parent. If you are unable to get clarification that evening, contact the child’s school or teacher the following day to discuss the concern.
- Many schools offer after school homework help. If this is something you feel your child would benefit from, find out if this is an option.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.