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Surviving Homework

Happy New-School-Year Parents!

By now the novelty of the new classroom, new teacher, or new school may be wearing a bit thin. You might be experiencing anything from mild resistance and complaining to epic, blood-curdling protests. Or somewhere in between. You’re not alone!

As September comes to a close, many children’s exhaustion from the big transition into the school year and general growing pains kick into high gear and can be a real, daily struggle.

A VERY common platform for children’s resistance and exhaustion is homework time. It’s school work, in the safety of their home, so they have the opportunity to let us know how they REALLY feel about all of it….all while staring at the backyard they wish they were playing in instead. And all of this is occurring during a time of day when most kids are only a half-step away from nuclear meltdown anyway. So fun!!

Here’s a quick trick I teach parents to help get a child through homework time. You can use this whether you’ve got a 5 year old or a 14 year old – just adjust to suit the child’s age:  

Homework Lily Pads

Often times it’s the idea of the task ahead that is the most overwhelming for a tired kid. A homework sheet with five questions can feel like the S.A.T. to a tired 7 year old. “Lily pads” are little breaks within the homework so they don’t drown in the overwhelm of it all. It helps them get from one section to the next without crumbling…and soon enough, they’re done!

Sit with your child and look together at the task ahead. How many problems? Sentences? Paragraphs?

Now set a goal with your child about how many problems they need to get through before the first lily pad. You want it to be enough of a challenge on their focus and stamina to make it a push, but not so much that they’re discouraged and want to give up.

Now decide what the lily pad entails. You want it to be quick, but a good release of energy and ultimately grounding.

Here are some ideas:
– A quick tickle attack
(My youngest daughter’s favorite)
– Mini Dance Party
– Crazy Handshake
– One acrobatic trick
– Switch to a new position/location (next five problems do from under the table, or on the couch, or on the kitchen floor!)
– Jump up and down, wiggle/shake out the frustration
– One lap around the house/yard
– A giant scream or roar into a pillow

 Make sure to let your child know WHY you’re doing this. Tired brains and bodies struggle with focus. And sometimes it’s hard to feel motivated, even if we are rested, if we’re not excited about what we’re doing. As we grow we all need to get to know our bodies and brains well and figure out how to get ourselves through challenging tasks.

Using these lily pads “unlocks” our brain. And we can create silent and hidden lily pads to use while we’re at school or at work to keep us moving forward. Hidden lily pads might look like a deep breath, a big stretch, squeezing and then releasing our fingers or toes, or giving ourself a mental pep talk. “Almost there! You can do it!”

The truth is, as grown-ups we use strategies like this all of the time, every day, without even realizing it. We need to so we can make it through all of the numerous tasks we’re not thrilled about. Ever find yourself with thoughts like this?

“I HATE cleaning the cat box.
Why am I always the one stuck doing this??
It’s SO annoying!! Ugh!
(Exasperated sigh)
Oh well, at least it will be done and stop stinking.
I’ll sit down and drink some iced tea after.”

 In this example there were four strategies!

1) Emotional expression
2) A deep breath
3) Looking for the positive
4) Reward upon completion

So why do we expect our kids to just “do it” when we use so many strategies ourselves?  We can make things go a lot smoother by first normalizing the frustration…

“I totally get it.
You’re really frustrated with those problems.
I know that feeling….it’s no fun.”

 …and then making suggestions like the ones above.

 By finding a way to coach a child through homework, you’re really also helping him or her discover effective strategies to use for a lifetime.