It’s no secret homework causes stress for many students.
Whether it’s a big test around the corner or an upcoming deadline for an assignment, sometimes it can be impossible to avoid homework stress.
Like it or not, homework is a big part of children’s education. And when your child is overwhelmed or frustrated by homework, it can have a negative impact on his or her ability to focus and retain information. It can also lead to your child procrastinating on his or her homework (or simply not completing it), creating an ongoing cycle of stress.
Ultimately, this can all end in poor in-class performance and lower grades. Because of this, learning how to manage homework stress important.
The Effects Of Homework Stress On Students
The effects of too much homework can include higher levels of stress and frustration for students. This can lead to negative impacts on grades, social life, and health (both physical and mental).
On top of the effects homework can have on students, it can also increase family stress—from fights between parents and children to frustration when parents don’t have the ability to help with assignments.
How Does Homework Actually Affect Students?
Learn more about the impact homework can have on your child
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Most parents know homework can become a regular struggle. But it doesn’t have to be the worst part of your child’s day. Both parents and students can benefit from learning how to deal with homework stress, and turn it into a positive learning experience.
How To Avoid Homework Stress
Here are 10 tips to help your child learn how to make homework less stressful.
- Stick to a schedule
- Practise good time management
- Get started early
- Review your agenda regularly
- Stay organized
- Ask the teacher questions
- Organize a homework group
- Walk away if it’s overwhelming
- Make time to relax
- Get a good night’s rest
Help your child plan out his or her time, scheduling time for homework, chores, activities, and sleep. Keep this schedule handy so your child knows what he or she should be working on, and when.
When it’s time to get to work on homework assignments, make sure your child is focused on the task at hand. Remove distractions like cell phones or television so your child can complete his or her homework and stay on schedule.
Every day right after school, sit down with your child and go over homework assignments for each class. Help him or her make a list of what should be completed that night and get started early. Waiting to get started until later in the evening means your child has less time (and energy) to complete his or her homework, leading more stress for both of you.
Your child should have an agenda where he or she writes down all homework and assignments given by the teacher. Have your child review the agenda each day to make sure he or she knows what homework assignments need to be completed.
An unorganized homework station can be distracting. Make sure the space is kept neat and tidy and has all the supplies your child will need to complete his or her homework, including pencils, paper, and textbooks.
As much as parents would like to help their children with homework, the material taught in school has changed a lot over the years. If your child is struggling with homework, make a list of questions he or she can take to the teacher to get the help needed to understand the assignment.
Creating a homework group can help make homework less overwhelming by giving your child the chance to go over the material with his or her classmates. This gives kids the opportunity to better understand the material by teaching it to each other and working through any questions as a team.
If your child is getting frustrated or overwhelmed by a homework assignment or question, encourage him or her to take a break and come back to it. This will give your child a chance to relax and regroup so he or she can come back with a clear mind. Even while completing other tasks, your child’s brain will continue working on problems in the background.
Set aside time for your child to do something that he or she enjoys, whether it’s an activity at home or an organized extracurricular activity. On top of helping your child get important exercise, it will also give him or her a break from homework stress and an outlet for any frustration or extra energy.
Get your child into a regular sleep routine so he or she has a chance to recharge after the day. Children 6-13 years old should get 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night, while teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Getting the recommended amount of sleep will help make sure your child is ready to tackle another day of school and homework assignments.
No More Homework Stress
Learning how to handle homework stress will help your child get more out of homework assignments, while also helping him or her develop better learning habits. Using these tips, your child can learn to tackle homework with more confidence and less frustration.
If your child is still struggling with homework, our homework help tutors are here to help!
Colleen Frainey, 16, of Tualatin, Ore., cut back on advanced placement classes in her junior year because the stress was making her physically ill. Toni Greaves for NPR hide caption
Colleen Frainey, 16, of Tualatin, Ore., cut back on advanced placement classes in her junior year because the stress was making her physically ill.Toni Greaves for NPR
When high school junior Nora Huynh got her report card, she was devastated to see that she didn't get a perfect 4.0.
Nora "had a total meltdown, cried for hours," her mother, Jennie Huynh of Alameda, Calif., says. "I couldn't believe her reaction."
Nora is doing college-level work, her mother says, but many of her friends are taking enough advanced classes to boost their grade-point averages above 4.0. "It breaks my heart to see her upset when she's doing so awesome and going above and beyond."
And the pressure is taking a physical toll, too. At age 16, Nora is tired, is increasingly irritated with her siblings and often suffers headaches, her mother says.
Parents are right to be worried about stress and their children's health, says Mary Alvord, a clinical psychologist in Maryland and public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association.
"A little stress is a good thing," Alvord says. "It can motivate students to be organized. But too much stress can backfire."
Almost 40 percent of parents say their high-schooler is experiencing a lot of stress from school, according to a new NPR poll conducted with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. In most cases, that stress is from academics, not social issues or bullying, the poll found. (See the full results here.)
Homework was a leading cause of stress, with 24 percent of parents saying it's an issue.
Teenagers say they're suffering, too. A survey by the American Psychological Association found that nearly half of all teens — 45 percent — said they were stressed by school pressures.
Chronic stress can cause a sense of panic and paralysis, Alvord says. The child feels stuck, which only adds to the feeling of stress.
Parents can help put the child's distress in perspective, particularly when they get into what Alvord calls catastrophic "what if" thinking: "What if I get a bad grade, then what if that means I fail the course, then I'll never get into college."
Then move beyond talking and do something about it.
Colleen pets her horse, Bishop. They had been missing out on rides together because of homework. Toni Greaves for NPR hide caption
Colleen pets her horse, Bishop. They had been missing out on rides together because of homework.Toni Greaves for NPR
That's what 16-year-old Colleen Frainey of Tualatin, Ore., did. As a sophomore last year, she was taking all advanced courses. The pressure was making her sick. "I didn't feel good, and when I didn't feel good I felt like I couldn't do my work, which would stress me out more," she says.
Mom Abigail Frainey says, "It was more than we could handle as a family."
With encouragement from her parents, Colleen dropped one of her advanced courses. The family's decision generated disbelief from other parents. "Why would I let her take the easy way out?" Abigail Frainey heard.
But she says dialing down on academics was absolutely the right decision for her child. Colleen no longer suffers headaches or stomachaches. She's still in honors courses, but the workload this year is manageable.
Even better, Colleen now has time to do things she never would have considered last year, like going out to dinner with the family on a weeknight, or going to the barn to ride her horse, Bishop.
Psychologist Alvord says a balanced life should be the goal for all families. If a child is having trouble getting things done, parents can help plan the week, deciding what's important and what's optional. "Just basic time management — that will help reduce the stress."
Teens Talk Stress
When NPR asked on Facebook if stress is an issue for teenagers, they spoke loud and clear:
- "Academic stress has been a part of my life ever since I can remember," wrote Bretta McCall, 16, of Seattle. "This year I spend about 12 hours a day on schoolwork. I'm home right now because I was feeling so sick from stress I couldn't be at school. So as you can tell, it's a big part of my life!"
- "At the time of writing this, my weekend assignments include two papers, a PowerPoint to go with a 10-minute presentation, studying for a test and two quizzes, and an entire chapter (approximately 40 pages) of notes in a college textbook," wrote Connor West of New Jersey.
- "It's a problem that's basically brushed off by most people," wrote Kelly Farrell in Delaware. "There's this mentality of, 'You're doing well, so why are you complaining?' " She says she started experiencing symptoms of stress in middle school, and was diagnosed with panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder in high school.
- "Parents are the worst about all of this," writes Colin Hughes of Illinois. "All I hear is, 'Work harder, you're a smart kid, I know you have it in you, and if you want to go to college you need to work harder.' It's a pain."