9 Tips for Managing Homework Anxiety

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Homework is associated with some level of stress for most children. However, for youth with an anxiety disorder, the pressure of assignments, tests, and deadlines can provoke panic and can disable them with fear. Parents can play an important role in helping their children reduce stress associated with homework time. Here’s how.

Teen girl stressed about homework with a headache.
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Make sure there is not an underlying reason for the anxiety

Children with other problems, such as ADHD or learning disabilities, 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.

Young girl doing homework.
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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.

Family working together at kitchen table.
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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.

Mother taking cell phone away from young daughter doing homework.
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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.

Father and teen daughter meeting with teacher.
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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.

Teen boy doing homework.
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Be involved in your child’s homework

When parents are involved in their child’s education the child has fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance than students whose parents are not involved, according to ChildTrends.org. Go over what they have for homework each night and help them stay organized. For example, help your child create a study plan or flashcards when studying for a test. You might also talk about what should be done first. Your child may do better if they complete the easier tasks first.

Mother hugging troubled daughter.
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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.

Children playing.
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Develop stress relievers

Help your child develop stress relieving strategies. Engaging in exercise every day can help relieve feelings of stress. You can 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.

Tutor working with smiling young girl.
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Consider a tutor

Students with math anxiety had significantly reduced anxiety after working one-on-one with a tutor according to a study completed at Stanford University School of Medicine. The regions of the brain that are activitated when anxious showed differences after working with a tutor. While this study specifically targeted math anxiety, if your child is struggling with certain subjects, working with a tutor may help them to feel less anxious.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.