Too much? Not relevant? Too difficult? Not enough hours in the day? There are many reasons homework is a struggle. “Finding balance is not easy especially when the amount of homework a child has may be dictated by the school and tutors, not parents,” says Dr Lim Boon Leng, Consultant Psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness. “The first step is to understand that the child needs well-rounded development, instead of just homework, to grow up healthily.” With this in mind, parents may better prioritise for their kids.
Communicate with your child’s teachers
In some situations, it may be good to take time to talk to your child’s teacher about homework expectations. If the relevance of homework is not clear to parents then it can seem like “why are we even doing this?” In certain schools, Dr Lim observes that this may not be the culture, and teachers may have less time to accommodate such requests. But if parents have specific concerns, he advises them to flag them to the teacher anyway.
Develop a routine
Homework doesn’t have to be done straight away as every family has different routines. Dr Lim advises getting the child involved in determining “homework time” so that he will be more motivated to complete the task efficiently. This is especially important for older children who might benefit from being given more responsibility and autonomy.
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There should be a proper environment for the child to complete his homework, and this space should be free from distractions. That said, it is important to tailor the environment to the child. “This tends to differ from child to child. For example, if music helps to keep your child focused, there is no reason to ban it while studying,” Dr Lim explains.
Teach organisational skills
Tune in to your child’s homework needs. Younger kids, children struggling with organisation or kids with learning difficulties might need more structure and support. “Parents can help with timetables initially. But the focus should be on teaching the child how to make such a timetable and to enable him to be self-effective rather than to hold his hand all the time,” says Dr Lim. When children are younger, you may also want to help them plan ahead so that they don’t find out that they lack important materials at the eleventh hour. But Dr Lim stresses that you should teach the child to plan ahead for himself.
“If the mistake your child made is not too serious, it may be better not to rescue him so that he can learn a lesson from his mistakes,” suggests Dr Lim. “However if it is a critical mistake, parents may want to help the child first before sitting down with him to discuss the problem and how things can be done better next time.”
Beware extra costs
Forget fancy pencils – increasingly, kids need computers and that can put a lot of pressure on families. Not everyone can afford the latest equipment or Internet access. Your child’s school needs to be aware if you need some notice to get access to technology.
“If the child is not completing his work in time, feels down, starts questioning his ability,and often worries about his homework to the extent of getting poor sleep, parents should take note,” stresses Dr Lim. Should there be any signs of psychological distress, parents may consider seeking some professional help. Dr Lim also suggests speaking to teachers to moderate the workload to allow the child to catch up.
Text: Bauer/Additional reporting: Candy Lim