So – how was your day?  Do you have a lot of homework? 

And so, it begins…

For many parents, one of the greatest sources of stress revolves around the issue of homework.  The reasons for the stress may vary from parent to parent, or may be different based on each child’s uniqueness, but the end result can be just as impactful.  I want to share my perspective on how we can reduce some of the stress and find more balance and meaning for ourselves and our children.

A study I read recently (Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools) says that when it came to stress, more than 70 percent of high school students said they were “often or always stressed over schoolwork,” with 56 percent listing homework as a primary stressor.  As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the role of homework enforcer.  If we can take a step back for a moment and look at the role homework plays in our children’s lives, perhaps we can use this time, and our view of homework in a more productive light.

How we see ourselves as learners, how we learn how to deal with struggles, and how we learn how to manage our stress are all vital factors leading to success and happiness.  Setting attainable and exciting goals, learning how to gather the resources and finding the support toward reaching these goals is a skill as well.  While I am not suggesting that school performance is not important, I am asking that we look at the overall message we want our children to have.  When I train teachers, I ask them to help students connect with their lessons on a deeper level so that the learning is more meaningful – even when they are not as interested in the subject material.  What are you learning, why are you learning it, what is the benefit of learning how to learn these lessons?

Homework time, for better and for worse, is an opportunity for children to learn how to manage their time and their materials.  Even more than that, it is an opportunity for them to learn about themselves regarding their goals and their skill and strategies in reaching their goals.  I believe that helping our children be conscious of their guiding intentions – what is known as “metacognition” (thinking about what you are thinking about), is one of the most important gifts we can give them.  Framing homework time as an expression of how they manage their overall goals can help them stay focused while working so they can have time and energy for the other things they value in their lives.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can offer our children is to help them learn what to do when they feel overwhelmed and out of balance.  Help them gain perspective by partnering with them to help them establish and achieve their overall goals, not just their academic obligations.  Model for them, and learn with them, how to find balance and reduce daily stress.  I believe we could all use a little fine tuning in these areas of life these days.

If your child is struggling to complete their homework, it is important to address these issues.  There may be many factors contributing to the difficulties – the level, the amount, the child’s self-management skills.  But you are not alone in this journey.  Never let your relationship suffer at the altar of homework.