Like the seasons, the school year has a rhythm. As sultry summer turned into balmy September, your tween or teen’s teachers may have given him or her time to re-acclimate to the rigors of academic environment. But now it’s October: Cool weather and homework go hand in hand. And it builds toward the big crescendo that culminates in Halloween and finally Thanksgiving.
Here are five things you can do — and five your child can do — to ensure success:
What You Can Do
1. Have a collaborative conversation with your tween or teen about a productive homework approach. This especially important if your child has an active after-school life.
2. Commit to encouraging a calm and quiet environment for your tween or teen while she is completing her homework. If she has siblings who often interrupt her for example, make it clear that she is not to be bothered. Avoid creating unnecessary noise. For example, don’t run the blender or turn up the music when you know she is trying to complete her assignments.
3. Monitor distractions. Cell phones and social networking sites do not mix well with homework. If your tween or teen is particularly prone to avoiding homework you may need to take away cell phones, tablets, and other electronic distractions during homework time.
4. Only offer help when asked. Try not to take it personally if he opts to get help from another resource such as a friend. The key is that he is trying to get help. Encourage and validate these efforts.
5. If she asks for help, work with her. If her questions are simple, you can certainly offer assistance. Avoid doing the work for her, however. If she needs more help than you can or perhaps should provide, help her devise a plan to seek out appropriate resources. For example, she can go to after-school help.
What Your Tween or Teen Can Do
1. A planner is an essential item. Regardless of whether her planner is real or virtual (e.g. a phone calendar), it is important to create a specific space to record homework assignments. These days many schools provide websites that students can check to make sure they got all the assignments down correctly. Students should also plug in dates for longer-term projects.
2. Create a homework schedule. If your tween or teen is particularly prone to disorganization, a more detailed schedule may be important. He should block out the order in which he will complete homework in each subject along with rough time estimates. These estimates will get more accurate as the school year continues.
3. Pre-plan breaks. In order to make the best use of available time it is helpful to schedule in time for rest and relaxation. How much time to schedule and how often will depend on your tween’s or teen’s ability to remain motivated and focused. She may have to try out a few different approaches before she finds the routine that works best for her.
4. Homework prep encourages efficiency. Before beginning assignments it is helpful to check that he has all the essential tools at his fingertips. If for example, he has a science assignment that requires calculations, ensuring that his calculator is readily accessibility will cut back on the time wasted in a search.
5. An efficient filing system is a must. Once an assignment is completed, it is important to file it in an obvious and accessible place. Students should designate separate homework folders for each individual subjects. This will ensure that completed assignments are handed in for credit. It also serves as a place to store returned homework assignments that may be needed to use or study from in the future.
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Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and writer specializing in tweens, teens, young adults, and parenting.