How do I help my kids with homework? They are eight and eleven, and at the same elementary school. They truly don’t have that much homework, but it’s a constant struggle at our house.
This is such a good question, and great timing as the distractions of spring are about to engulf us.
I believe if you can establish good homework and study habits now, it will make things easier in the future when there is more homework. Plus, it sounds like homework is causing conflict, which isn’t fun for any family.
First, I would create a dedicated time and space for homework that is fairly inflexible. If your children come home starving and full of energy, then the moment they step off the bus isn’t the best time for homework. Let them have a snack and play for a while. A timer works well to keep everyone on task – give them forty-five minutes of down time, and then it’s homework time. If they have evening activities, homework needs to be done before those activities begin. Once you find a time that works, make sure you have everything they need. A small bin with supplies that are designated for homework eliminates the wasted minutes of trying to find a pencil or ruler. Keep the bin in the same place and make sure the contents are only used for school. Homework-time is a good time for a parent to do seated work like paying bills, meal planning, or reading a magazine. A quiet house that is focused on work sends the clear message of how important homework is and that your family values completing it.
Second, I would recommend knowing what the expectations are for your children. Ask their teachers how long they should be spending on homework. If your child has been working diligently for the allotted time and work isn’t completed, I would suggest talking with the teacher. You don’t want your child to become frustrated with homework. Open communication between teachers and parents is helpful. Your children may have some strategies they are using in the classroom that can help minimize the struggle at home. Please ask the teacher for any tips.
Finally, consider breaking up the homework time into subjects. Maybe reading can be done right before bed as a nice calming activity, but math and writing are done earlier. If attention span is a concern, break up the assignments into manageable segments. But, regardless of the schedule you implement, you have to remain committed to it so your children understand the importance of homework.
My middle-schooler is being bullied and won’t let me talk to anyone at his school. What should I do?
This is a hard position for a parent to be in, but I strongly recommend talking with the appropriate people at the school. Children do not always share everything about bullying for many reasons. Your child may be embarrassed by something or not aware of the full picture (are other children being bullied, too?). He may have been warned or threatened not to tell anyone. Talking with school officials helps adults become aware of the scope of the bullying, but more importantly, it sends the clear message to your son that you hear him, and that you will help keep him safe. That is the role adults must play in children’s lives: keeping them safe. This includes teachers as well as parents and caregivers.
Do you know why your child is hesitant for you to talk with the school? Hearing what his concerns are will help you understand your son’s feelings better. Have an open conversation with him. Talking about sensitive topics face-to-face can be hard for children at any age. Try engaging him while washing the dishes or driving in the car. It’s important to listen to him and to validate his thoughts and feelings. But, as the adult, you have to do what needs to be done to protect him. I would also encourage a more general conversation about bullying so you both can learn more about bullying, what it is, and why it happens. Information about bullying is available through a variety of sources, so find one that works online (YouTube videos, websites) or in books. These can make the conversations easier. It is important for your son to feel like he has options.
About bullying: In general, bullies repeatedly target the same kids because those kids provide some type of reaction that the bully likes. Have you talked to your son about trying to ignore the situation? Also, is there any pattern to the bullying that a change in your son’s routine could disrupt? Using a different route to get to class or always walking with a friend? The bullying is probably affecting your son’s self-confidence, so make sure there are many opportunities for him to continue to have successes and positive influences in his life. These are all suggestions that might come up as you
work with the school administration.
Bullying can be serious, and has led to tragic outcomes in some situations. I strongly encourage you to become involved, keep the lines of communication open with your son, and develop some strategies – both in school and outside of school – so that your son can move through this difficult phase. Bullying does not have to have long-lasting effects if managed appropriately and expediently.