Homework is a key part of the schooling system in many countries worldwide. A lot has changed between the time we parents were at school and the system our children are now working under—homework is no different. Often, you might wonder: is this really how much homework they’re giving students now because it seems so overwhelming.

Even in your own child, you may have seen the stress impact of the amount of homework given out. This stress may have manifested in your child asking for your help with their homework.

It’s always great to have a chance to be in your child’s life—even if that means doing homework, which you hoped you’d left behind twenty years ago! That being said, teenagers often find their parents a burden, or embarrassing, or plain boring. So it’s essential, when helping your kids with their homework, not to get on the wrong side of them. If you do, you might be ousted, and your child left alone to figure out their homework themselves.

So, what strategies can you enact to help your child with their homework and avoid getting on their wrong side?

Create a helpful working environment

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As you surely know from your own life, there are certain places you simply can’t work. For example, if it’s noisy, or too dark, or there’s a cat jumping up onto your knee every five seconds, you know there won’t be any work getting done that day.

Your children are the same. There will be certain conditions they work well under, and some they don’t. Have a chat with them about what helps them, then work to provide this for them.

Most children will be a lot like adults—they’ll want somewhere quiet, well lit, and stocked with everything they need.

Find the quietest part of your house (often a difficult task) and set up a desk. Make the desk as big as you can; it often helps to have a space where children can spread out all their papers, books, and a laptop if they use one. Have a lamp nearby that can be shone, even if it’s dark outside. It can help to get a candle or a diffuser, so the space smells nice too.

Key to encouraging good, productive work is removing all electronics that aren’t completely necessary for the task. This may not be a popular suggestion with your child, so have a genuine conversation with them about it. In truth, your child might find their phone helpful when they’re working, to listen to music, or to send a message to their classmates if they get stuck.

If they are willing to, though, it’s likely they’ll get their work done quicker. There are alternatives to the uses they attribute their phone to. You could bring a radio into the room for music, or even go old-school with a CD player.

Hopefully, with a good working environment, your child should be able to focus, be productive, and have more time in the evenings for fun rather than homework.

Keep on top of what your children are learning

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When your child asks you for help with their homework, they don’t want to spend half an hour explaining the entire subject topic to you. By keeping up with what they’re learning, you can jump right in and start helping—this should reduce any annoyance they might experience with asking you to help.

You can keep up with their learning by asking them each day or so what they’ve got up to at school. Try to act interested (even if you’re not…) so they feel like you genuinely want to know. Kids can sniff out indifference like sniffer dogs, and if they feel like you don’t care, they won’t want to tell you about what they’ve been up to. Once you have a vague grasp, you can hold some of the basic concepts in your head for when you need to help.

The key to this working, though, is not to learn anything in too much detail. Explaining a concept to another person is a great way to learn. When helping them with their homework, the bit of explaining they have to do to catch you up to speed should help them work through all their ideas and streamline the information down to the fundamental bones. You never know, that little explanation might help them to work out the solution themselves!

But at the end of the day, your child doesn’t want to spend half an hour explaining to you the ins and outs of the solar system, so make sure you have a basic knowledge of what they’re getting up to at school in the first place.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

You aren’t a teacher yourself, so it makes sense that, at times, you aren’t going to know how to help. Whether that’s an issue with homework content or an issue with your child’s feelings of stress, worry, or sadness. Sometimes problems are too big and complicated for you to sort out on your own.

For this reason, a crucial part of helping your children with their homework is being brave enough to ask for help yourself.

This could come in many forms. Maybe it’s just admitting that you don’t know and turning to google to find out how to take a long screenshot on mac. Or maybe it’s calling up your son or daughter’s teacher to let them know that they struggle to complete the homework each night.

When you enter more people into a problem (like getting homework done), you tend to find that more ideas are floating around to help. Why wouldn’t you want to help your child have the easiest ride when it comes to complex things like homework? Asking for help can help both you and your kid. 

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