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How to Help Kids With Homework

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 07, 2022

Helping your child with their homework is an opportunity to connect with them and improve their chances of academic success. As a parent, you can reinforce concepts taught in the classroom and nurture good study habits. Helping with homework shows your child that you believe their education is important.

What Is the Best Way I Can Help My Child With Homework?

You don’t need to be a certified teacher or an expert in a subject in order to help with homework. You can help by developing your child's time management skills, introducing strategies to stay organized, and offering words of encouragement. 

Here are some homework tips for parents:

  • Know their teacher. Attending parent-teacher conferences, getting involved in school events, and knowing how to get in touch with your child’s teacher can help you better understand homework expectations.
  • Family study time. Set aside time every day for homework. Some kids do best by jumping into homework right after school, while others need a break and will be better focused after dinner. 
  • Set a good example. Family study time gives you the opportunity to model studious behavior. Demonstrate the importance of organization and diligence by paying bills or planning your family’s budget during this shared time. Reading while your child completes their homework instills the idea that learning is a lifelong and enjoyable pursuit. Your example will be far more impactful than your lectures.
  • Designate a homework space. Having a designated space for homework can help your child stay on task. It should be well lit and have extra school supplies within reach.
  • Help with time management. If your student has a lot of homework, encourage them to break the workload into smaller and more manageable tasks. Create a schedule for the evening to ensure they get through their long to-do list, including opportunities for breaks.
  • Don’t do the homework for them. Helping your child with homework isn’t the same as doing your child’s homework. You can make suggestions, but your child must do the work for meaningful learning to take place. Have patience, allow them to struggle a little, and resist the urge to simply give them the answers.

How Do I Help a Child Struggling With Homework?

Struggling through challenges is an important part of learning. Research shows that something called “productive struggle” is essential to learning new concepts. Too much struggle, however, can be demoralizing and counterproductive. So where's the line drawn between productive struggling and counterproductive struggling? You know your child better than anyone, so trust your instincts and step in before your student becomes overwhelmed.  

Consider these tips if your child's struggling with homework:

  • If your child's already stressed out or frustrated, start with taking a break.
  • Engage your child in a conversation so you can understand where they're stuck 
  • Offer hints or guidance to help them move forward
  • Resist the urge to do their homework or give them the answers
  • As soon as your child understands how to resolve the issue, step back and let them continue without your direct assistance
  • Avoid stressful cramming and last-minute panic by helping your student plan ahead for tests and long-term assignments.
  • Offer your child encouragement and praise them for their perseverance.
  • Work on your own paperwork or read nearby as your child completes their homework to help them stay on task.
  • Reach out to the teacher if additional assistance is needed and remind your child to ask questions at school when they're confused

Should I Help My Child With Math Homework?

Math is taught differently now than it was twenty or thirty years ago. The Common Core Standards are used in 41 states, and most other states follow the same principles even if they don’t call them the Common Core. Instead of memorizing specific ways to solve math problems, students today are asked to solve problems in several different ways and explain the strategy they used. 

For many parents, their child’s math homework seems complicated and confusing. The goal of this newer method, however, is a deeper understanding of mathematics. Just because you learned math in a different way doesn’t mean you can’t help with math homework. 

  • Focus on non-academic help. You can help your student by offering encouragement, tracking assignments, and helping with time management. Create a distraction-free time and place for them to focus on their math homework. 
  • Learn how it’s taught. Understand how math is taught at your child’s school. Some school districts offer parents a math night or online resources to help them better understand the way math is taught at schools.
  • Reach out to the teacher. Ask the teacher for insight on how you can support your student at home. They might point you towards resources that align with their curriculum or offer additional help to your student at school.

At What Age Do You Stop Helping With Homework?

Some research has shown that the connection between student achievement and parental involvement in schoolwork is strongest in the elementary years but declines in middle school. By the time your child enters middle school, parents helping with homework can do more harm than good. At this stage, parental help with homework is associated with lower student achievement.

While you should be helping a lot less with homework, middle school isn't the time to retreat from your child's education. Non-homework forms of parent involvement are strongly associated with higher academic achievement. There are many ways you can support your middle schooler’s success. 

  • Monitor assignments and test scores
  • Attend school events
  • Participate in parent-teacher conferences
  • Ask questions about classes and what your child is learning
  • Continue to encourage a regular study time and place at home

Ideally, you laid the groundwork in the elementary years and good study habits are well established by middle school. While your child will outgrow the need for your direct homework assistance, they'll never outgrow the need for your support and encouragement. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Developmental Psychology: “Parental Involvement in Middle School: A Meta-Analytic Assessment of the Strategies That Promote Achievement.”

Harvard Graduate School of Education: “Homework Help for Reluctant Children.”

Hechinger Report: “Confused by your kid’s math homework? Here’s how it all adds up.”

Nemours KidsHealth: “Top 10 Homework Tips.”

U.S. Department of Education: “Helping Your Child With Homework,” “How to Help: Provide Guidance – Helping Your Child With Homework.”

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