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8 Tips for Managing Homework Anxiety

Eileen Bailey Aug 29th, 2012 (updated Apr 22nd, 2016)
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"Homework" is not a word any child wants to hear. But for some children, especially those with an anxiety disorder, the thought of doing homework brings fear. Dr. Marcia Slattery, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin states, “There’s an inherent quality to homework that evokes a certain amount of stress, and that can be good, because it pushes us to learn. But for some children, the anxiety is so pronounced it basically freezes them.” Here are some ways parents can help to reduce stress and relieve some of the anxiety associated with homework time.

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Make sure there is not an underlying reason for the anxiety
Make sure there is not an underlying reason for the anxiety

Children with other problems, such as ADHD or learning disabilitie,s may be anxious about homework because they are having trouble understanding the work or keeping up with their classmates. Talk to your child’s teacher to find out if there are other school issues, like bullying, that may be contributing to your child’s anxiety.

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Create a time and space for homework
Create a time and space for homework

Children with anxiety may do better knowing what to expect, and when to expect it. Set aside a specific time each day when homework is completed–routine and consistency help reduce stress. Create a “homework space” that is relaxing and comfortable. Minimize distractions.

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Use homework time as productive time for you as well
Use homework time as productive time for you as well

Use this time to pay bills, go over your budget, read a book, exercise or cook dinner. You will be setting an example that homework time isn’t just for kids; that adults must spend time each day doing their "homework"–taking care of the household or exercising their mind or body. Homework will feel less like a chore and more like a daily routine.

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Talk about your expectations for homework
Talk about your expectations for homework

Children with anxiety are sometimes trying to live up to unrealistic expectations or may want everything to be perfect. Let your child know what you expect; for example, you can help reduce stress by explaining that effort is more important than results. You can also note that making mistakes helps people learn.

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Keep open communication with your child’s teacher
Keep open communication with your child’s teacher

If homework time is a huge battle every night, talk with your child’s teacher. Is there a way the homework can be reduced but still give your child the opportunity to learn? Are there other problems at school contributing to stress? Regular communication with the teacher is the best way to keep abreast of what is going on during the school day.

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Be involved in your child’s homework
Be involved in your child’s homework

Go over what they have for homework each night and help them stay organized. For example, if part of the homework is studying for a test, you can help create a study plan or help them create flashcards. You might also talk about what should be done first; your child may do better if they complete the easier tasks first.

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Always offer encouragement and support.
Always offer encouragement and support.

It can be frustrating when your child refuses to do homework or ends up in tears. Give your child plenty of praise, even for the smallest accomplishment. “How great that you have completed your sentences so quickly,” is much better than, “Finally, now you have to do math.” Focus on what your child has accomplished or what he or she does well.

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Stress Relievers
Stress Relievers

Help your child develop stress relieving strategies. Engaging in exercise every day can help relieve feelings of stress but you can also break up homework time with a few stretching or cardiovascular exercises in between assignments. Rhythmic breathing also helps. Teach your child to learn signs of stress and take a few minutes to stop and do a few deep breathing exercises to reduce stress.