Tips for supporting your child with their homework during elementary school

As kids gets older, they gain more responsibility at school and at home. You’ve probably already begun this process by assigning them simple tasks around the house, such as picking up toys, making their own beds and feeding the pets. Now that school has started, your elementary school student may be bringing home homework for the first time. Since homework will be their reality for years to come, it’s smart to set up good habits now.

Embrace the enthusiasm: It doesn’t happen with every kid, but for some, this big-kid task is an exciting shift in status, especially if they have older siblings. Praise them for having a good attitude and for getting right to work. For good measure, “gossip” with your spouse or a family member about your child’s strong start.

Watch your child’s cues: Most parents would prefer that their kids get homework done right after school, but this isn’t ideal for all kids. If it’s a struggle, experiment with different times. Perhaps a snack and a half an hour of free time will give your child a much needed energy boost to tackle the assignment. Still, other kids do best first thing in the morning when their minds are fresh.

Make a routine: Give your child’s executive brain function a boost and post a colorful checklist of your child’s after school routine, one that preferably has a “destination” to a fun, desired activity at the end. For example, it can list: hang up jacket, empty backpack, eat snack, finish homework, read silently, screen time.

Be encouraging: Sometimes, your child will get stuck on a problem and call you over to help. Show empathy for their frustration and encourage your child to work through it. In the long run, they need to learn to work through sticky patches without expecting a rescue. If your child is truly stuck, notify the teacher that extra help is needed.

The times they are a-changin’: Some parents are caught off-guard by this, but many schools now teach math using the common-core curriculum. That means your math methods may differ greatly from your child’s. Don’t badmouth or complain about the new way, as strange as it may appear. Let your child demonstrate how they do it. If they get stuck on an assignment, you can show them “your way,” such as how to carry numbers in double-digit addition. Just acknowledge that yours is one of many methods to solve a problem.

Redirect: In many children, distraction is inevitable, especially if they are reluctant to come to the homework table. When this happens, stay calm and redirect with positive statements that focus on the task. Instead of saying, “Stop talking,” or “Don’t play with your crayons!” try, “Remember, you’re supposed to do your homework right now. But when you’re finished, let’s get out the giant paper and draw a city!”

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