It’s every parent’s nightmare to have a worried teenager with a huge assignment due in the next day. We’ve certainly there, and hopefully we learnt something along the way. Below are some tips to help you deal with those homework assignments, so you and your teen don’t have to learn the hard way! 

8 ways to avoid the stress of homework assignments

1. Stay calm and positive.

Believe your son or daughter can do it. It’s good that they care enough to come and ask you. Keep the lines of communication open and focus on what needs to be done to get the task done.

2. Try to get organised.

Get the assignment as soon as it’s given out and mark in a diary or timeline when activities need to be completed by.

Remember that having a regular homework time will help here. Some students will need parental help with time management and organisation throughout their secondary schooling.

3. Use coloured pens.

Use coloured pens to highlight the different things that need to be done.

Some young people will need you to help them work out just one activity to do each night. Parents can help with proof reading and structuring of ideas but don’t do it for them.

4. Talk about the wording of the question.

You might have to think about words like ‘analyse’, ‘compare’, ‘describe’. What is the question actually asking you to do?

If neither of you is sure, go back to the teacher. Teachers are usually very happy to answer such questions – if not in class, then at an agreed on time after classes.

5. Get feedback.

When the draft or rough outline is under way, your son or daughter should take it to the teacher to be reviewed.  They can then find out if they are on track.

This is really important because the teacher will be marking it according to a marking schedule. Does the teacher think you are ‘on track’ is important and if not they will give feedback on what needs to be included, or changed.

Be guided by that feedback – research by John Hattie tells us it’s by paying attention to the feedback we get, and acting on it, that we most improve our grades. In fact, feedback is one of the top 10 influences on student achievement.

6. Hire a tutor.

If you don’t have the time, patience or skills for all this, then the best thing to do is pay a tutor. This is also a good idea if your child doesn’t respond well to you helping them.

You may find year 13 students who are willing to do this for you for an agreed on sum. If you don’t know any, contact the Year 13 Dean or subject HOD of your local secondary school.

Otherwise look in the local paper, ask at the school office, or ask other parents.

7. Consider a study-buddy.

Sometimes organising a ‘study buddy’ to visit and co-work on an assignment can be really helpful too.

It’s a bit of a case of ‘two minds is better than one.’ Each child can help the other become ‘unstuck’ on areas they’re struggling with. This becomes a really positive cycle, and study buddies tend to form strong, positive relationships that last a long time.

8. Consider the workload.

If none of the above is working, it may be time to consider the level of work and/or the workload your child is trying to work on.

If you feel the work is beyond your child and causing them to become very anxious. Or they’re putting in a huge effort, but having little success, make an appointment with the subject teacher and/or learning support staff to discuss.

It’s OK for your child to experience stress during homework assignments. Stress can be used for very positive effect. But undue stress, that’s leading to significant anxiety, can be detrimental to your child’s development, as well as mental state.

All schools need to provide work for students that is at their level of learning, with workloads that are achievable.

Help your child develop good study habits early

The thing about homework assignments is you just finish one, and the next one is ready waiting :-). This begins with earnest in the first year of secondary school, and ramps up as the years go on.

If students slip behind early on, it will just get harder and harder to catch up.

Having good homework assignment processes in place is definitely a skill worth developing in primary school, and getting better at in the secondary years.

A good system for getting through the workload can definitely reduce the stress of homework assignments.

For more great advice on helping your teen through the secondary school years check out our Teens: education section.

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Julie Mulcahy is married to Peter, a Primary School Principal and is descended from a long line of teachers. Julie has taught Years 4 through to Year 13, moved from country schools in Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Northland and spent the past 10 years in Auckland where she has worked for six large secondary schools taking referrals for senior students who had learning or behaviour needs.

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