Parent Phrases to Avoid Homework Meltdowns with Anxious Child
If you have a child in school, you don’t need a study to tell you that your child gets too much homework. Whether you’re trudging through times table worksheets and book reports with your elementary aged children or begging your high schooler to do that forty problem algebra assignment, five page essay, and read the twenty pages from their history textbook, we already know our kids are overwhelmed. I don’t know whether to say it’s nice to have the numbers back me up or say I’m horrified at how far overboard things have gone. CNN’s recent article says that many children are spending three times the recommended time constraints on homework. And we have to somehow teach them to live a life balanced between that, social time, playtime and adequate sleep. What can we, as parents, do about it? Our school systems are under pressure to produce results as many foreign school systems surpass us in performance. As a consequence, many of the schools have standards that teachers are required to meet, so they can’t scale back. Unless your child has a diagnosed and recognized learning disability, you’re forced to pressure your child through in order to keep up. And if they can’t keep up? Homework time becomes a tangle of frustrated sighs, slammed pencils, anxiety and all out meltdowns, especially with an anxious child, which is all kinds of counterproductive since yelling increases anxiety and decreases memory.
Helpful Phrases to Avoid Homework Frustrations
We obviously don’t want to become the villains, especially if you have an anxious child, so here are some helpful phrases to keep the situation mellow.
“It’s ok; we can do this together.”
Sometimes all it takes to trudge through when they’re stuck is a little nudge and the knowledge that they have some back-up. All burdens are lighter when there are helping hands to help stabilize the load. Reassurance that they don’t have to struggle alone can help lift anxiety and build trust in your relationship so they feel comfortable coming to you for help later.
“Tell me where you’re struggling.”
You can try the same problem until you’re eraser is nothing but a metal stub and your pencil is only an inch tall, but you’re not likely to make any progress unless you both know where their gap in understanding lies. This simple request can help you pinpoint the problem sooner. It also teaches your child to open a discussion with you when things get difficult. This can help them through the problem and gives them a healthy way to vent frustrations and anxiety.
“You can do hard things.”
This one is my favorite. It’s my personal mantra when I face a challenge. “I can’t” is a learned behavior, but also a natural reaction. It’s so easy for a child to look at a tough homework assignment and think, “I can’t do this.” If we can’t, then it’s easy to forgive ourselves for not doing it. But acknowledging that this homework assignment, or any other task, is hard, but I can do it anyway is an invaluable lesson for our kids to learn. Make sure to point out how good it feels when they finish. Satisfaction can be a great motivator.
“Let’s break it down.”
Another step in conquering that dreaded I can’t, is this little gem. The big picture can be overwhelming. Take a problem a piece at a time. This decreases the stress and helps them better learn the concepts.
“Time for a break.”
It’s important to work hard and keep at it, but sometimes the best remedy is a break. Give your child a chance to get up, run around, get a drink, jumping jacks, or any number of activities. This refreshes the mind and settles a restless body. When they come back, they’ll be more equipped to handle the task at hand.
“I’m proud of your efforts.”
Everyone likes to hear that they’ve done a good job and children are no exception. Make sure you applaud them for the hard work that they’ve done even if things didn’t go smoothly. The harder the assignment, the harder they worked. This positive reinforcement will boost their self-confidence and encourage them to work harder in the future.
“Which part is confusing to you?”
We want our kids to communicate with us instead of shutting down. If you can tell they are having a difficult time, help them express which parts are confusing and where they are struggling. Open lines of communication not only give you the opportunity to know their perspective, it also gives them a chance to express themselves in a way that releases their frustration, anxiety and tension.
“Let’s draw it out.”
Not all children learn the way concepts are taught in school. Allowing a visual learner to draw pictures of the main idea, instead of listing bullet points, will help them understand those materials better. The same idea applies to all different types of learners. An auditory learner may understand their reading assignment better if they read it out loud and talk it out with you.
“What else do you know about this topic?”
This helps you to know what parts of their assignment that they understand. This can be helpful if they’re not sure what parts they’re struggling with. If they can’t tell you anything about it, then there’s a good chance you need to start from the beginning. If they can tell you all about it, then the struggle may be getting what’s in their head out on paper.
“I’m scared and overwhelmed too.”
It helps them to know that they’re not alone in their feelings. If they feel like you understand how they feel, they may be more cooperative when you try to work with them.
“What can I do to help?”
If you just dive right in, it’s easy to make the mistake of doing their homework for them. This is detrimental in so many ways. But if you ask them what you can do to assist or where they’re lacking, they can get help with just what they’re struggling with. If they only need your help brainstorming, you can help them generate ideas and then get out of their way. This helps them be better prepared for school as well as more independent overall.
“Let’s take a deep breath.”
Taking a deep breath can be beneficial for both of you. If you’re getting frustrated, I can guarantee your child is probably more so. Regulating breathing regulates emotion and releases tension in the body so the brain can focus on other things.
“I didn’t get it the first time either.”
Example is one of the greatest teaching methods and it’s even beneficial for them to know you’re not perfect. It’s good for them to see that you’ve been down the same road, but you used hard work to figure it out. Or maybe it took you until your brain hit another developmental milestone to be capable of understanding. Either way you can give them hope that they’ll get there too.
“It may not make sense now, but it will come together.”
Kids of all ages love to use the argument, “when will I ever use this in real life?” Or “I don’t need to know how to spell. My computer/phone/tablet will do it for me.” Learning each individual piece feels like cruel and unusual punishment, but if you can teach them to give it time, they’ll learn to see that each step to learning leads to a bigger picture of understanding. And they’ll probably catch themselves using those concepts later in life.
“I’m not always going to be with you.”
It’s vital that we teach our children independence when it comes to schoolwork. Remind them that you won’t always be around to work them through their assignments. With the homework loads so high, it’s tempting to go too easy on them or push them too hard. We have to find a happy medium when enforcing homework habits and then set them free. If we’re there for them when they need us, but encourage them to work things out on their own as much as possible, then they’ll be prepared to do tests and assignments when you’re not around.
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