Too much homework? How parents can help

Does your child or teen spend too much time on homework? Do you find yourself worrying that they are going to bed too late or are overly stressed because the amount of homework they have is overwhelming? Well, you’re not alone. Complaints about homework seem to be at an all-time high, and relate to the quantity of homework (“He doesn’t have enough hours in the day to do all of this!”), the level of effort or skill required to complete homework (“This seems like a college-level assignment!”), and the age at which kids are starting to have homework (“How can he be expected to do that by himself?”). While national data show that the amount of homework assigned to kids of all ages has generally stayed flat over the past decade, and even decreased in some cases, the academic skills engaged during homework time have changed (e.g., increased emphasis on critical thinking, requirements to “show your work” on math assignments, etc.). As a result, homework may actually be more taxing today for kids with ADHD.

Many of the parents I have worked with tell me that homework is the most stressful part of their day because of the frequent arguments and conflicts that come up during this time. Most tell me that they feel like arguments around homework are having a serious negative impact on their relationship with their child. While you can’t eliminate homework from your child’s life, there are things you and your child or teen can do to help make homework more manageable.

  1. Schedule dedicated homework time. The National PTA and the National Education Association suggest that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per grade level, and many public schools aim for these targets. So, your 6th grader should have at least an hour of homework to do. Your sophomore in high school should have about an hour and 40 minutes (100 total minutes). You and your child may believe this is longer than they should be spending on homework each night, but if this is the reality of what is being assigned, then it’s best to be prepared for it. Help your child or teen figure out how to set aside the specified amount of time in their daily schedule. Any less dedicated time than this, and your child will probably find themselves with too much to do and too little time, even if they are efficient. In fact, if your child has ADHD, they may need about 50% more time than kids without ADHD to complete their work. If your child or teen is regularly taking much longer than expected to complete their assignments (e.g., a 6th grader regularly takes 1 hour and 30 minutes or longer), then talk to your child’s teacher. Often teachers don’t realize how long homework is taking, and are open to making adjustments to your child’s assignments to accommodate their ADHD.
  2. Create an action plan. Kids with ADHD often have a hard time starting on their homework, but do pretty well once they’re going. Parents can help by sitting down with their child at the beginning of homework time to create an action plan. Have your child make a list of each assignment, the due date, the tasks necessary to complete the work, and the materials they need to get the job done. Then, decide which assignment should be completed first, and sit with them for a minute or two while they get started.
  3. Try a homework club. Many schools and public libraries have started Homework Clubs after school to help kids get homework done. Homework clubs provide great spaces for kids to stay focused (no bedroom toys or everyday family life to distract them) and may provide more supportive adults (teachers, aides, librarians) and homework tools (supervised computer access, protractors for geometry assignments, etc.), and less distracting environments than typical afterschool programs. The best part about these programs is that they occur right after school, before your child becomes fatigued at the end of the day. They also minimize parent-child conflicts, since other adults are providing the supervision.
  4. Work with a tutoring center. If your child is struggling with homework completion, and a homework club and they need more individualized help than a typical homework club or afterschool program can provide, then private tutoring or learning centers can help. They offer more flexible hours and small group or one-on-one support that can benefit kids with ADHD. They are also staffed with educational professionals who are focused on helping kids not only complete their assignments, but also truly understand and master the concepts. If you’re searching your area for a center, search for one that has extensive experience working with kids who have ADHD.
  5. Fuel your child’s performance. Kids need the right amount of sleep, nutrition, and physical activity to complete their work effectively – this is true for all kids, but it is especially true for kids with ADHD. When any of these factors is out of balance, your child’s homework will suffer.  So, take a holistic approach to your child’s homework time, and help them get the sleep, nutrition, and physical activity that they need.

Homework is challenging for all kids, and it is especially challenging for kids and teens with ADHD. By taking a solution-focus approach to helping your child get their assignments completed, you can alleviate stress for your child and your family.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about creating effective Action Plans by applying a Getting Things Done approach to homework!

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