Children today experience a much faster pace than children experienced even a few generations ago. One of the most commonly cited stressors for children is homework, but does homework cause stress in children or are we just babying them? If homework is a stressor, how can parents help their children handle it?
Does Homework Cause Stress in Children?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is – yes.
The age where homework starts to stress children out is becoming lower; some children even reporting concerning levels of stress due to homework in early elementary school!
There are many reasons for this trend, but one of the most common one is the amount of information children are expected to learn is increasing in complexity, and the rate they are expected to learn it is either remain the same or decreasing.
For elementary schools, the shortened recess time puts more pressure on children without allowing them the time to work out their energy and digest what they have learned. This increased pressure is brought home and makes completing homework assignments a difficult task and very stressful for children.
Middle and high schools continue the tough academic pressures. Larger class sizes, shorter break times and strong pressures to perform well on standardized tests all place students under large amounts of stress.
All of these factors make completing homework assignments a dubious task.
In this setting a student who has questions on various parts of the lesson will have a much harder time getting that personal attention to answer their question, which in turn leads to hours of frustration while trying to complete the homework assignment or an incomplete homework.
What Does Research Say?
According to research conducted by Education scholar, Denise Pope, excessive homework is definitely associated with increase in stress levels. In addition, Pope found that excessive homework creates a lack of balance in children’s lives and can cause various health problems like headaches, ulcers, sleep deprivation and weight loss to name a few.
Homework today which can on some days exceed 3 to 4 hours can negatively affect a child’s sleep cycle. Instead of getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep which is recommended, children end up getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep which in itself contributes to increase in stress.
Add to this the fact that more homework equates less time spent outside playing or in other words, low physical activity which again leads to accumulation of stress in the body.
It’s no wonder that more than half the students surveyed in the study done by ‘Denise Pope’ cited homework to be a primary stressor in their lives.
Another research indicates that students miss out on developing important life skills and their social life suffers as they don’t find time to pursue hobbies they enjoy, for outdoor activities or to even meet friends or family.
This cuts down on the student’s creativity and readies their mind up for mechanical work.
Research done by Duke University psychology professor, Harris Cooper indicates that there also is a positive side to homework. His study found that students who did homework did better in school in terms of academic achievements. In addition to that, he also found that homework tends to increase positive traits like self discipline, inquisitiveness, positive attitude towards schooling and independent problem solving skills.
But along with the positives, Cooper also found a host of negatives associated with excessive homework. These included physical and mental fatigue, lack of leisure time and generation of negative attitudes towards learning.
How Can Parents Help?
Parents don’t have to just sit on the sideline and watch their children deal with the stress of homework.
One of the best things parents can do for their children is listen to them and ask questions without judging the answer. Many children are afraid to admit to feeling overwhelmed with homework because they feel like they will be treated as if they are lazy failures.
While every parent wants their child to achieve to the best of their ability, it is important to be willing to reduce those pressures if your child beings to act overwhelmed in homework.
Understanding that your child is stressed by homework doesn’t mean that you have to allow them to not try. Often times homework causes stress because they don’t understand a certain concept.
Find out what about the homework causes your child stress.
Perhaps it is the amount, or perhaps it the content, whatever it is, you cannot help if you don’t try to understand.
While many children do well with less organized extra-curricular activities, it is very important to maintain one or two to keep balance in their lives. Instead of dropping all other activities to focus on homework, it would be more beneficial to help your child enhance their time management skills.
Work with your child to create a schedule for getting homework done on time. Review the plan every few weeks to make any appropriate modifications.
Thankfully more schools are working to regulate the amount of homework given to help ease the stresses it causes on students.
However there will always be children who feel highly stressed by homework. For any child who feels stressed from homework, work with them to discover the root reason behind all their stress and work with them to handle it in a healthy manner.