How to Reduce Homework Stress and Anxiety (Live Expert Webinar)

Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s expert
webinar. My name is Trynia, and I’m a team member here
at Understood. Today we’re going to be talking about homework
stress and anxiety. This is definitely a topic we’ve heard from
a lot of people looking for information about this. We’re really excited to have this webinar
today, and we have Dr. Jerry Schultz joining us. Jerry is a clinical neuropsychologist. Jerry, do you want to take just a couple of
minutes to introduce yourself to our viewers? Sure. Thanks so much for having me on today. I appreciate the opportunity. I am a clinical neuropsychologist. I started out my professional career as a
Special Education teacher, let’s say several years ago, and have morphed since that time
and do what I do today, which is to provide consultation to schools and other organizations. I often do webinars to share what I know about
kids. My specialty is working with the impact of
stress on cognition, behavior, and emotions in kids with learning and attention challenges. I like doing these webinars because it gives
me a chance to hear from people and respond to real questions from the real world. I like to make sure my work is practical,
so I’m happy to have the audience. We’re so excited that you’re here. To our viewers out there, for those of you
that have joined lots of our other chats, I want to let you know that this will be set
up a little bit different from some of the chats you may have attended in the past. We wanted to give this in a webinar format
so that we can get really good information out there. We thought through a lot of questions that
we had already received from parents and people out there in our community. We asked Jerry to help us come up with a webinar
of information for you. We do still want to take your questions though,
but we won’t do that until the end of the webinar. Please hold your questions, or you can ask
them in the comments box, but just know that we won’t be responding to those until after
the webinar portion of this video today. We expect that the webinar is going to last
about 45 minutes or so, and then we’ll have about 15 minutes for some questions from the
audience at the end. But, we do want to know who’s joining us out
there. Go ahead in the comments box, and let us know
where you’re watching from, how old your kids are. That is one thing I do want to mention for
those of you who maybe are new to Understood, or to these webinars that we do, we mostly
are focused towards giving information to parents. This doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be helpful for,
if you yourself are looking for help figuring out how to tackle your homework. It might be helpful in that sense as well. But just know that we created this with parents
in mind. With that, Jerry, I’m gonna go ahead and let
you share your screen and start your presentation. All right. Let’s see if the magic of technology works
on this end. Let me know if you see a full screen on your
end, Trynia. Yes, we do look good over here. Okay, great. Ready to roll. I’ve put together some ideas and thoughts
for the audience today because I’m gonna end with a comment that I think homework should
be homework, and not home-wreck. I’m giving you a punchline at the end, but
I’ve worked with families and kids, and teachers for several decades, and I understand how
tense a time homework can be. I know as a parent myself. My daughter won’t mind me telling you stories
about how she sat on a couch screaming and crying while I tried to help her through [inaudible
00:05:27]. That was a long, long time ago. But, apparently what I learned is helped her
because she doesn’t have the same, not as often I guess, the struggles with her kids,
which is a good thing. Maybe I’ll take some credit for that. I don’t know. Let’s take a look at some of the causes at
homework stress. If I can … Hang on a second here. There we go. One of the reasons kids get into a lot of
emotional turmoil at homework time is because the really don’t know how to do it. Nobody gives them the strategies they need,
or the supports they need for doing the homework. Too often it’s just sent home as some task
to be done. When I work with teachers, as I do a lot,
when they talk about homework as something that’s more than a task that just has to be
done, when they explain the kids why they’re doing the homework, they ask kids whether
or not they’ll be able to do it independently and so forth. They’re providing those kinds of strategies. In my experience, when that happens, there’s
less homework stress, and more success at school. The other thing that happens that increases
the idea, the likelihood that homework is stressful time, is that kids maybe in a situation
where they’re being asked to do something that they don’t do well, or don’t believe
that they do well. Therefore, everything is focused on their
inability to do it. So, they’re sitting there with parents, if
the parent is available to help them. They want to look good, they want to look
smart. They want to sound intelligent in front of
their parents. They don’t want to create stress for their
parents. It’s a highly anxious time, especially if
kids are being put in situations where they feel or in reality have no control over the
situation. They’re just under incredible stress. As a neuropsychologist, that’s just not a
good time for learning. We want to reduce that situation. The other thing is we have some kids in the
population, some parents in the population who are anxious … As they go through life. For kids who are anxious to start with, that
anxiety sometimes spills over into homework. Even if the homework is a pleasurable experience. Even if it’s something like an art activity,
or something like working on a puzzle, or maps, or something that’s supposed to be fun,
anxious kids get anxious more often than other kids. If general anxiety is an issue or concern
for parents, that’s something you have to factor into this. There’s some kids who are really good kids,
really smart kids, really capable kids, when they start to get worked up, they have a difficult
time controlling themselves. They have difficult time managing their emotions. Things spin out of control. That’s tough at homework time, especially
if you’ve got a parent or sibling who’s helping you with homework. They’re sitting close to you. They’re trying to be helpful. You seem to be rejecting them as a child. You seem to be reacting to them in a negative
kind of way. You can’t turn that around. It’s really important to walk away from the
table at those times. To understand, have an agreement with your
child, if you get so worked up that I can’t help you, and you can’t except my help, that
means we just need to step apart for a little bit. Get ourselves back together and essentially
control our emotions. Because, if we’re worked up, this isn’t going
to go anywhere and it’s going to be a unpleasant experience. Let’s look at some of the signs of homework
stress. We’ll see those are similar to signs of anxiety. A little bit later on I’ll clarify what the
difference between stress and anxiety. So, you’re sitting down with a kid at home,
or you’re watching a kid from across the room doing homework, and you’ve got a kid who is
complaining, not feeling well. Somebody says, “I’m sick, I don’t feel like
doing this. Oh, I’ve got a tummy ache.” Or, headache. Those are often avoidance strategies. Sometimes the kid is sick. You have to be sure you know when a kid is
not faking it. I shouldn’t even say it that way. When kids complain about aches and pains,
they’re not faking it, but what they’re trying to do is to say, “I don’t think I’m going
to be very good at this. I don’t like doing this. This is going to be hard for me. If I feel sick, it’s because of that. And, my body’s telling me I’m in a bad situation.” When we get into stressful situations, we
don’t feel good. We feel bad. Here’s you mention a kid who is sitting with
the work but not even trying to do it. Kind of frozen in place. That’s what happens when you’re under stress. If the stress is too big for you, you’re not
likely to take the next step that’s necessary to get into it. You’re more likely to freeze like that proverbial
deer in the headlights. You may see some kids who look hyperactive
during homework time. They’re always moving around. They’re getting up to do something, they’re
saying, “Oh, I forgot something.” They’re moving around. If they’re moving in a chair, if they’re sitting
in a chair that moves, they’re spinning the chair around. They’re getting up, they’re sitting down,
they’re not focusing. Again, those are avoidance techniques. It’s not because your kid is an oppositional,
avoidant kid, but if somebody feels like they can’t do the work, or that they’ll look stupid
if they do, it makes absolute sense to me that they’re going to want to get away from
this situation. You also have kids who get really angry, they
get mad. They’re not mad at you, and it feels that
way. So, parents are working with their kids at
homework time, sometimes take this personally. Most often, it’s not personal. It’s not that they’re angry at you, but they’re
anxious, they’re stressed, and they don’t know what to do with it. The other thing that get in the way here is
kids who … Sorry, I’m going to back up here, I just pressed the wrong button. Oh no. Well, I’m getting stressful, I always love
then this happens because it proves I’m a human on the other end of this. It’s so true. … Trouble of managing, we talked about that
a minute. Too many buttons here to push, hang on just
a minute. This is kind of just review for everyone,
so they get to re-look at it. I like that reframing. It’s very nice. So, here we are back. I had another picture popping on my screen
that was getting in my way. Those were listed as signs of homework stress,
and if we see if we flip over here and look at signs of homework anxiety, they’re similar. Complaining of being sick. The other thing that you may hear from an
anxious child, that he or she expresses their doubt about being able to do the work. “I don’t feel that I can do this. I feel stupid.” They again refuse to do the homework assignment. They may have outbursts. Kids who are highly anxious can also have
what are called panic attacks. That just means that they’re so worked up
they have difficulty breathing, difficulty thinking. They get scared. They scare parents because these panic attacks
are overwhelming. Again, if you have an anxious child to start
with, you’re more likely to move into a greater period of anxiety or a greater period of stress
with a kid, unless you plan ahead for this and do something about that. We’ll talk about some practical things that
you can do as we move through the presentation. The next slide talks a bit about the progression
from stress to anxiety, the relationship between stress and anxiety. The first thing we have to understand is a
little bit of stress is good. If you go to the gym and you lift a weight
and the weight is too light for you, you don’t grow muscles. Good stress is the kind of stress that helps
us get ready to do a task, to be on our toes, to be cognitively ready, to be thinking about
the task, and to use energy to get the task done. If you’re under chronic stress or constant
stress, that can be bad for you because you’re in this situation where you feel like I can’t
do anything, this is too hard for me, and you get more and more frightened, more and
more worried, more and more stressed. If not stress is unabated, if it continues
on it can become toxic. Toxic stress is the kind of stress that hurts
us physically, hurt us psychologically. It’s not a situation we want to be in for
very long. Toxic stress can lead to, or made worse by
anxiety. Again, if you’re anxious going into the situation,
and you experience a situation that’s highly stressful for you, you’ll get more anxiety
and you can, as I said earlier, you can have a panic attack if you’re prone to have that
kind of reaction to it. So, that’s kind of the progression. The anxious brain is hardwired to avoid things
that are stressful. Things like for example homework, which is
certainly the topic for today. But, think about this. Stress is kind of the thermometer we have
for something in our environment that’s dangerous to us. If we feel like we can’t control that danger,
we get anxious. We get worried. Worry, and anxiety, and stress affect the
brain in negative ways, that make it less likely that we will be successful. The ability to become stressed by something
is really a protective mechanism. When we’re under threat we don’t think a lot
about it, we just want to get out of it. So, if a child doing homework feels psychologically
like he or she is under threat, that they will be stupid, or look stupid, or feel dumb,
they’re going to want to get out of the situation. That’s the underlying factor that explains
why homework can be so difficult for a lot of kids. I like to talk about the fear factor because
it’s a biological reality. When we’re scared we don’t do well at all. When kids are always struggling or failing
at a task, certainly you can understand how this would cause them to fear it. Unless they have the coping skills they need,
the fear can lead to anxiety. Think about it this way, I like to use the
example of Navy SEALs. These are men and women who face dangerous
situations that can threaten their life. But they have amazing coping skills to allow
them to deal with any danger that comes their way. If you look at the left hand side of this
formula, you see the fear inducing task here. We’re talking about kids sitting down with
homework, so it could be reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, organization that’s
required to do the task. We look at the middle rectangle here, that
which says poor coping skills. If kids don’t have the ability or don’t believe
they don’t have the ability to cope with a stressor, with a fearful thing, that results
in anxiety, which is what we see in the right hand rectangle of this formula. The message here is, homework shouldn’t invoke
fear in kids, they should face it thinking that they can do it, and I’ll talk a lot about
how to the get kids into the mindset. But, if kids don’t believe they have the ability
to do it. You’re sitting there trying to help them. You say, “Why don’t you work on this problem?” You get up and try to walk away and they say,
“I can’t do it.” And, they fall apart. It looks like you’re trying to manipulate
you. But, what they’re trying to do is to say,
“Mom, Dad, brother, sister, homework helper, whoever you are, I don’t have the skills to
do this. I’m highly anxious, and when you move away
from me, I get more anxious. I’m really not trying to avoid this work,
but I’d like to be successful.” The underlying message of this presentation
and many other presentations that I give is that more a child feels in control of his
or her environment, the less stress they have. Control means the ability to do it. If you’re driving down the highway and you’re
driving down an icy road and you feel out of control, you’re stress level goes way up. If you have a fear of heights, and you go
up in an elevator, you less control of you’re fear of heights, and you’re stress level goes
up. It’s a simple formula, but we have to understand
how it applies to homework, and that’s what we’re going to do as we move through the discussion. What helps kids have a sense of control? There are several things that can do this. One basic simple thing is being able to do
the work. Think about how many kids come home from school,
opening their homework, pulling it out of their backpack, putting it on the table, and
their first thought is, “I have no idea how to do this.” I think that’s, in some cases that’s true,
in other cases teachers have worked very hard explaining to their kids that the homework
that they’ll have that night, is very much like the work they just finished in school. Well, there’s a lot of things that happen
between that last feeling of feeling competent in school, and the beginning of homework. Many, many things can get in the way of this. So, in kids, especially anxious kids, open
a book or open an assignment, their first reaction is to say, I’ve never seen this before,
this is new. It maybe because the work they did during
the day was in a textbook, and now the work is on a handout. It maybe as simple as that. But, kids have to open their work believing
that they’re able to do that. They also have to be able to feel confident
that they can do that. They say, “Okay, I’m seeing this work, I think
I can do this. I’m pretty sure …” We’ll talk about some
of the language kids use when they feel this way. Kids should be familiar with the task. If they’re familiar with the task, then they
have a greater sense of control. Therefore, there’s less stress and therefore
there’s less anxiety. How does the kid become familiar with a task? The simplest way to be able to do this is
for a teacher in the last few minutes of a class to say, “This problem that you’re working
on right now, is not only a problem that you’re going to leave here feeling that you know
how … You can solve it. But, you’re going to have that exact same
problem as the first problem in your homework. So, it should really be easy for you. It should be a piece of cake for you.” We’re going to set it up so homework starts
out with success. Just think how simple that sounds, but how
important it is. The other issue is a lot of kids feel like
they don’t have enough time to do a task. When they feel like they’re in control, they
say, “Well, I’ve got 30 math problems in front of me. I know it takes me about a minute per problem
because I’ve had experience with this. Therefore it’s going to take me about a half
an hour, five minutes more or less, so I feel like I have a sense of control over the time. The other thing that’s important that gives
kids a sense of control is that they feel a sense of independence. Kids who feel like they can’t do homework
unless somebody’s sitting right at their knee or next to them touching their shoulder, don’t
feel independent at all. They feel dependent on other people. In some cases they need to be dependent, and
it’s good for an adult if you’re around to help a kid with homework. But, it’s really important for kids to feel
that they can do this, and they can do it fairly alone. Homework should not be something that creates
a situation where you must find somebody else to help you do it. Some teachers give homework that requires
interaction with an adult, or with another child through texting or phone call, and that’s
okay because the teacher is fostering the use of additional resources to do a task that
maybe too difficult. That’s not bad. But, if that’s the default setting, then if
a kid comes home and says, “I can’t do this by myself, I need help.” All the time. That’s not a good strategy. That doesn’t give a kid a sense of control. The other thing that puts kids in charge of
their own academic destiny when it comes time for homework is that they have used strategies
that have helped them be successful in school. They know how to take these strategies home
with them and use these accommodations in a way that will pay off, that will work for
them. They may open a page, let’s say of 30 math
problems again, and they may know that they get anxious when they see 30 problems. What they’ve learned to do in school is to
fold the paper into fourths, even cut it up into four sections, and do six of the problems
at a time. I’m not really good at math, so probably that’s
not the right problem I should be using, but you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Do one problem at a time, do another problem,
do another problem, and that way you take away the anxiety that comes from seeing an
overwhelming amount of path problems or spelling problems, or language tasks. I like to think about how to create, what
I call Confidence Anchors. Sometimes I refer to those as Competence Anchors. Here are things that you can do if you’re
working with a child who’s anxious at homework time. You can remind your boy or girl, your son
or daughter, of homework that they did well in the past. You can say, “Oh, this is a short paragraph
writing test. Remember last Tuesday, you did the same kind
of thing, and you and I both agreed, and so did your teacher, that you did pretty well
on that. This is very much like that one.” When your child begins to think in those terms,
he or she is less likely to say, “Oh my goodness, I’ve never done this before, therefore I’m
anxious.” Even if you keep a home … I’m going to recommend
that you keep a folder of homework done successfully, done well. If you pull out something that’s like it,
you can open that folder and say, “Look, this is what you did last week, or last month. Wouldn’t you say this looks similar?” If the kid says no, you can say, “Well, look
it has about the same amount of words, the teacher’s asking you to do the same task.” Think about that. If you’re knitting or doing something like
that, and you pull out something that you made before, and you look at the new pattern
and you say, “What was like the one I did before? I should be able to do this.” That’s what we’re going for here. Help your child remember the feeling of success
that he or she had the last time they did this. Say something like, “Remember when you did
this writing assignment and you were struggling at the beginning, but when you took pictures
out of the magazine to help you give your writing some structure and some sequence,
you did that really well, and you loved what you wrote. We actually have it up on the refrigerator
right now. Your teacher said it was really good work. You said you thought it was good work. Let’s try to do that. Let’s remember that feeling.” Now I’m talking to you as neuropsychologist,
the human brain loves the feeling of success. It doesn’t like failure, and it tries to get
away from that, but it really is addictive to success. This is related to that. Trying to connect past successes to the current
challenge. “Yes, this one looks difficult. And, yes, this one has a few more problems. Or, this one is a little longer. Or, this one may take you longer to complete. But, remember, you did something like this
in the past, and this is just taking another step in the direction that you need to go
in.” The fourth thing you can do to create a confident
anchor is to say to your child, “What’s your brain saying to you right now? You just opened your book, you’re looking
at an assignment, what’s your brain saying?” If kids have difficulty with this, you say,
“Well, when I was a kid, I opened my math homework and I always thought I was bad at
math, and the first thing my brain said to me is, oh, you’re going to really bomb on
this. You’re going to really be bad at this.” Or, you can say, “When some kids see a really
long writing assignment that requires organization, your brain may say to you something like you
really have trouble with organization. You are not going to do well at this.” When kids start thinking about the messages
they are sending to themselves, what their brain is saying, what their mind is saying,
and they use alternative language to say something else instead, that’s a more positive statement,
they tend to do better. They tend be more confident. I’ll talk a little bit more about that later
on. I like to have kids identify what I call helpers
and hurdles. When you identify the things that get in the
way, or the things that help you, you allow your child to feel a great sense of control. It also builds independence, and build confidence. Helpers, as I talk about them, are things
the child may need or might use to succeed at the task. Hurdles are things that your kid thinks might
get in the way. Most kids don’t talk about the helpers, they
just talk about the hurdles. They say, “Oh my god, I can’t do this.” They go very quickly to the negative. That’s not because they’re negative or oppositional,
but because they’re scared, they’re anxious, they’re worried that they won’t be successful. But, there’s somethings you can do to turn
this around when you’re asking about helpers and hurdles. Here’s some questions you can ask. What have you done successfully in the past
that’s like this homework? I’m phrasing it specifically that way because
you have a couple of choices. You can say, let me tell you what you’ve done
successfully in the past, that’s just like this. That’s one intervention that’s helpful. But, you ultimately want to get your kid to
say, what have you done successfully in the past that’s like this homework? Remember, you’re moving toward independence. You want your kid to internalize that question,
and say to himself or herself, “Oh, this is like that work I did last week.” You don’t always want to have to be there
asking this question. It’s kind of a developmental process. It’s okay to say, you have done something
like this in the past. But, you don’t want to be saying that in the
long term. You want kids to be able to express that question
themselves. The second one, what is it, son or daughter,
that you bring to this assignment that will help you be successful. What’s in your homework wallet, to paraphrase
an ad on TV. What do you bring to this, what’s in your
bag of tricks that’s going to allow you to be successful. Kids may say, “I don’t know what you’re talking
about.” You can say to them things that are based
in fact, like, “You have stick-to-it-tiveness. You have faced challenges before like that
time you learned to ride a horse, like that time you learned to rollerskate, like that
time you learned to long division. You have the ability to jump into things that
are challenging. This is one of those times.” If you tell the child what you see as those
things that he or she brings into the assignment, and overtime he or she going to be able to
pull those out of her own repertoire of task. Another thing you can ask a child when you’re
looking at helpers here, to say, “Do you need anything … Anything. Any object, any material, or anyone. Do you need me? Do you need a classmate? Do you need to text your teacher? Do you need to stay after school to get homework
help for this to help you be successful?” It’s a good message to send because it says,
“There are some things in homework, as is the case in life, where you might need some
other tool, or you might need some other person to help you. That’s not a bad thing. It should not need to be for homework, it
should not need to be your default setting. You shouldn’t always need to someone else
to help you with this assignment. If you do, that means either your confidence
is way lower than it needs to be. Or, the work is too difficult for you right
now. Let’s look at the hurdles. These are things that you can say to your
child, when you’re trying to identify the factors that get in the way of homework. Can you think of anything that might get in
the way of your being successful at this assignment? And, the kid will say no. If a kid’s in an anxious state, answering
these question is really difficult. You might have to say, “I know sometimes …” Looking
at the second one. “I know that in the past, reading the word
problems has gotten in the way of getting the math right. Do you think that’s a problem right now?” The kid may cry and scream and say, “Yes,
I do. I can’t do it.” As a parent, it’s a challenging situation
because here your kid is a negative state of mind, and you’ve done what’s supposed to
be the right thing to do. You’re saying, “In the past, this has gotten
in your way. Is it right now?” The kid say, “Yes!” And, you say, “Oh my god, why did I say that?” Well, the thing to do with that is to say,
“And, in the past, when you had that problem, I remember that you got around it. And, you did it in this way.” Those words can be calming because they’re
talking about ways to get in charge of the hurdles. The other thing to ask, is something we talked
about earlier, to say, “What’s your brain telling you right now?” The kid is saying, “That I’m stupid, that
I can’t do it.” The next question to ask is, “Is that helping
you or is that getting in the way?” And, if it’s getting in the way … If the
child says, “I don’t know.” Then, it’s okay for a parent to say, “I think
that negative thinking is getting in the way. You and I have talked in the past, and your
teacher has talked to you about this, that when you have a negative mindset, your brain
doesn’t want to do the work that’s required. The brain wants to escape. Your brain is trying to escape right now.” You can also say to your child, “Your teacher
told me in the last conference that he sends things home that he believes that you can
do mostly right, and mostly by yourself.” Let’s think about that now. So, the idea is looking at the advantages,
the helpers that a child brings to the task, and then looking at the hurdles and trying
to come up with language to let them maximize the helpers, and minimize the hurdles. The secret to reducing stress is to have a
child who is trained how to assess how difficult the task seems, and how able they are to do
it. Take a moment and look at this. Write it down if you have to. If you can do these two things, these are
the skills of successful people. If you’re climbing up a mountain, the first
thing you have to do is to assess how hard that task will be. Then, the next thing you have to do is to
say, well, it’s really, really hard, but I think I’m able to do it. This is a 5 thousand foot mountain, I’ve climbed
up a 4 thousand foot mountain before. I have the right shoes, I have water, I have
food, I have a map, I have a flashlight, I have rain gear. It’s a tough task, but I’m able to do that. We’re trying to look at combination of challenging
enough, coupled with enough ability to do it. Here’s how you can do it. Here’s the way to assess both difficulty and
ability. Kids often think about how hard the work is,
but they don’t often think about how capable. You need to ask your child to rate both of
these. Let me say before we explain this, you don’t
have to this every night, all the time. But, you want your kid ultimately to internalize
these two questions. One is how hard is this assignment on a one
to five scale. If you think about holding your hand up in
front of your face with all five fingers spread apart. That’s like no way I can do this. Stop. Five. That’s way, way hard. Where thumbs up, one, that’s easy, on the
left hand side. The next question, how able are you to do
this? Thumbs up, one, here’s a piece of cake. That’s really easy for me. Five fingers up in front of your face … We’re
looking for work in the three zone, in what I call a go go zone. This work is just hard enough and I’m just
capable enough to do it. Think about the Navy SEALs again. They face a lot of four and five level tasks. They also say they have thumbs up ability
to it. Their skill level is at one or two. If not, they don’t go in. The may walk away, but only long enough to
get the resources they need, or to refocus their strategy. That’s how they become successful. We don’t want the work to be easy. We want it to be hard enough. But, we want kids to be able to see the match
between their ability and the difficulty rating. Simple formula, but I think a very powerful
one. How do talk to kids about confidence? Being capable does always mean feeling confident. You can use the same rating scale, number
one here being, I’m going to breeze through this, and number five meaning, I don’t even
know when to start. I’m totally overwhelmed. So, you ask your child, how likely is it that
you’ll successfully finish this task? Remember, you just did those two other rating
scales that set you up for a really good answer here. If a kid says it’s just hard enough and I
have the ability, I’m in the three zone, the work zone. It’s more likely you’re going to get a high
rating here. Really, a number one rating, that I can do
this kind of thing. That’s what you want to get. You want to get your kid into a state of mind
that is ready for the challenge. The key here is to get kids into a positive
mindset. You want them thinking, “I can do this.” You don’t want them thinking, “Hey, there’s
no way I can do this.” [inaudible 00:34:27] too often this scenario
when kids are sitting with a parent or whoever can help with homework at night. I work in schools two or three days a week. I was a Special Education teacher when I started
out, now I work with teachers and kids all the time. These are things I think teachers find very
helpful. Your teacher wants to help you to reduce homework
stress and anxiety in your kids. They don’t want to send kids home so they
will be stressed and anxious. Sometimes they don’t even know that kids are
stressed and anxious after school. So, talk to your child’s teacher about this
if it’s concern of yours. Explain what you’re seeing at home regarding
homework, say that, “Do you know that every night we get into a conflict?” You can say to them, “I’ve been to a webinar
with Dr. Schultz and I know how to do these things but I’m still having but I’m still
having difficulty. I need your help with this.” You also have to understand the teachers goal
in having students do the homework. I’m gonna say this to teachers directly, teachers
have to understand their goal and having two kids do the homework. Sometimes work gets sent home that’s new work. The goal of doing that work is trying to learn
something new on your own. I don’t think that’s a definition of homework. I think that’s the definition of extending
the school day. Kids should be sent on with things that they
believe that they can do fairly well and that if they can’t they can come back the next
day and explain to their difficulty to their teacher, and he or she will help them get
beyond that hurdle. That’s part of a teacher’s job as well. It’s a collaboration between parents and school. Find out what the teacher is seeing and hearing
in the classroom. The teacher may say, “Well, your kid never
complains about homework. I don’t see her say anything negative about
homework. This is all a big surprise to me. She looks and seems and acts so confidently
in the classroom, I had no idea that what I was sending home was causing her stress.” That’s a really important kind of thing. You have a kid who’s trying, who’s a smart
kid, who can do well and the teacher has no indication that homework is a problem, so
he or she continues to send homework home and it comes back because you help the child
with it. Or, it comes back because your kid is up till
two o’clock in the morning doing it, but a teacher needs to know what consequence the
homework has at home. You have to talk about strategies that can
help build a bridge between classwork and homework, if it’s a problem. If the teacher is unwilling or doesn’t quite
get it, talk to your child’s guidance counselor at school and say, “You know, I think my kid’s
teachers great. My daughter is learning a lot in class. My son loves the class, but homework is a
horrible time. I need help with it. It’s not my kid, my kid is getting a lower
grade because the homework grades are lower. [inaudible 00:37:08] those count, and that’s
not because he won’t do it, and it’s not because he can’t do it, but there’s something getting
in the way and we need to figure this out.” You have to explore the accommodations and
any modifications that are necessary to get kids back on track. We had a lot of things to consider and talk
about, I hope that you’ll have a lot of questions that you’ll be sending in. We’re getting close to the end of the formal
presentation here, but I want to think about it and close up this way. If your kids start out anxious about homework,
he or she will say things to you like, this is too hard for me. The homework is stupid. I hate math. I hate science. Or, I stink at writing. Or, I can’t read this fast enough. Or, I’m going to mess this up. Or, I don’t have enough trying to do it the
right way. Those are clues for you, when you’re sitting
there with an anxious child. You can’t say, “Oh no, you can do it.” You have to really have data that suggests
that what you’re being asked to do is like what you did before, and the thing that you
did before, you did it fairly well. That’s the point you’re trying to get at. If a child says, “I hate math.” That may be true. So, you may have to say to a child, “Yeah,
you do hate math. You’ve told me that before, and you know what,
I don’t particularly love it either. But, you have to learn it. You have to do it. So, what do you do when you’re faced in life
with a situation when you hate what it is you have to learn? You can’t walk away from it because you suffer
the consequences. You don’t have the knowledge you need to take
it to the next level. And, that next level is coming.” These are kind of reality based suggestions. But, these are things that kid might say when
they’re feeling stressed. After you go back and work this magic on them,
and they begin something more confident, you should be able to expect your child to say
things like, “Hey, I’ve done this before and it went okay.” Or, “Hey, I hate this work but I got to do
it.” Or, “I’m gonna do the easiest part first because
then I’ll feel successful, and I know my brain likes success.” Or, “You know, I don’t know a lot about this,
but I do know something about frogs. And, this is about amphibians so that generalizes,
so we’re gonna do this …” The kid who might say, “I thought this is gonna be boring, but
you know what, this is kind of interesting.” Or, a kid who says, “I can do this and it’s
not going to be so bad.” Successful, confident, competent kids think
these things. They won’t come … I’m kind of joking that
they’ll say these things out loud to you. They might, but if you this is your expectation,
all you care about is that they do it, they do it well, enough, and they feel good about
it. These are probably things that they’re saying
internally. It’s great if you can have a discussion with
them, and ask them what their brain is saying to them at these times. That’s always a good thing. Here’s the final slide of the formal presentation,
which is entitled homework made easier. Homework might be a challenge but it doesn’t
need to be miserable. Shouldn’t be miserable for kids or their parents. If it’s miserable a couple nights out of the
week, maybe that’s tolerable. It shouldn’t be chronically miserable. That’s not the goal of homework. It’s not the goal of teachers, it’s not the
goal of education to send kids home with tasks that make their lives miserable. They like school less, they’re less healthy,
they’re more stressed. That’s not a good situation. If kids feel confident and competent, there
should be less stress and less anxiety. Parents at home, this requires a plan. It requires more patience, but it may require
a different kind of approach than you’re using right now. You shouldn’t have to sit in a state of misery. I often say, as I started out saying it should
be homework, it shouldn’t be home-wreck. If you try some things in a different way,
it should be worth the investment. Your kids will thank you. Your kid’s teachers will thank you. And, it will be something good you can talk
about in the years to come. That’s the end of the formal presentation. Let me see if I can do the technology involved
in getting me back up on the screen here. Hold on a sec. You did it. You’re good. All right. All right. [inaudible 00:41:23] works. Jerry, thank you. [inaudible 00:41:24] level was up. Sorry, thank you so much. This has been super helpful. We do have some questions that have come in
throughout your presentation. Great. I think I want to start with one of the first
questions that we got with somebody asking about if there’s things that parents might
be doing that might have the reverse effect that they’re hoping for. Are there things that might be harmful that
parents are either saying or doing during homework time or before homework time, that
might be putting their kids on edge or making a worse situation? That’s a great question, and yes, there are. For example, a parent may say, “Okay, it’s
homework time, get your books out and put them on the table here, and I’m going to sit
right next to you.” That’s the default setting. What’s better to do is to say, “Here’s a quiet
place for you to do your homework, and I can sit here if you need me to get you started,
but I can’t stay here the whole time, nor should I need to stay here the whole time. Do you think you need me here right now?” And, the kid says yes, and the parents you
might want to say, “Okay I’m gonna be here for five minutes. I’ve got my own homework to do, and I’ll be
around if you need me. But, I’m not gonna sit here for the next hour
or two, because you don’t need that. If you need me, call me back in. Here’s a bell I put on the table, ring it
and I’ll be there within a couple minutes.” The other thing is, the kid says, “I want
to do my homework in my room. I don’t want to do it down here in the kitchen.” Or, wherever you do it. If the room is a great place for homework,
that means if the homework gets done. I don’t have a problem with that. If the room is a place where technology lives,
and the kid won’t get off his or her electronic devices, that’s not a good place for homework. If the kid says I need my technology to talk
to my friends about this, that’s a good thing. But I’d rather have the technology out publicly,
so I could watch what goes on, not because I don’t trust my kid. But I know how easy it is for kids to get
pulled into the social web, the sticky web of social interaction on electronic devices. So, I think that’s important. I think you have to ask your child, “I’m doing
this thing, is this helpful for you?” And, the kid says, “No, get away from me.” Or, “No, I really don’t like it when you do
that.” Or, “Yes, I’d like you to do more of this.” Have that discussion. Thank you. You mentioned how sometimes kids might want
the parents sitting right next to them, or they might want the parent to go away, but
we had a question from a parent who has a 14 year old child, who wants them sitting
right there the entire time during homework. This parent has tried to back away, so that
the child can develop more independence and be able to do this on their own. But do you have any suggestions for this parent
of how to make that process work. Apparently they’ve tried, and it just hasn’t
gone very well. Yeah. If a child is anxious a lot of the time, having
a parent, or a comforting person sitting next to them helps to quell the anxiety. I think it’s important to understand the function
of having that parent sit next to the student. If this girl says when you move away from
me I get anxious, and I can’t think anymore. That’s a pretty honest reaction, and she’s
saying you are my comfort blanket. There may be things that you can use instead. The mom or dad may say, “I understand that’s
helpful, but I can’t be here with you all the time. I won’t be with you all the time. I want you to be more independent, and I think
you do too. It’s not that I’m telling you, you have to
be … What if I sit five feet away from you tonight. Let’s see if you get that same feeling.” And then, move slowly. “What if I sit 10 feet away? What if I sit on the couch instead of the
chair next to you and see how you feel?” Rate your anxiety level if that’s what’s getting
away. Use a rating scale like that. When you sit next to me I feel like this,
that’s great. And, when you move away I start feeling like
this, that’s not good. So, what you’re trying to do is get it like
this, and to say, “What do you think I can do?” The kid who is very anxious will say, “Don’t
you dare leave me. If you leave me I’ll be like this.” And the, the parent says, “I’m going to move
two inches away, and now tell me how you feel.” The kid may say, “You will not move farther
away. I can’t function without you.” I’m not going anywhere right now my goal is
to be a little more out of the way, but not right now. I’m here, and if you need me I’m back in the
picture again. But, you need to move toward that. For child that anxious, I would suggest it
might be helpful for that child, and a parent to work with a therapist who could help get
some greater separation. If a parent keeps trying to do the same thing
over and over again, and it doesn’t work, and that kid pulls you back in with the situation. That’s not healthy for either one of you. It’s not developmentally appropriate either. I’m saying there’s a reason for it, but it’s
important to get some separation. You’re not going to go to the library and
study in the stacks with your daughter when she’s 18 or 19. At least, I hope not. Yeah, and I like that idea of figuring out
what the function is, of why does this child want you right there. Is it because of anxiety, or are they not
sure how to do the homework and they need you to help them get started with it? But, figuring out what is that reason behind
it. That could be really helpful. We had a couple questions about getting kids
started with their homework. Sometimes we know that can be the toughest
part, right, of just getting them to sit down and start working on whatever assignment it
is that they’re supposed to do. A parent was specifically asking how much
should you continue to push or nag your child about getting started and doing the homework,
or to back off and let them kind of take control of getting their homework done and doing it
at a time that works for them. Do you have any suggestions on how to set
that up, or get kids going to get started? Yeah. I think it’s important to find out if the
kid’s homework schedule is working for her or him. If a kid says I’ll do my homework whenever,
if the kid is in bed by 10 o’clock or whatever the bedtime is, and gets her homework done. It doesn’t matter when she starts at 9:45. If she gets her homework done, and she gets
it done well enough. It will be nicer if the kids started earlier
and took more time and were [inaudible 00:47:45]. Probably the quality would be better, but
again we’re trying to create a situation where kids are independent, making decisions that
are affecting them. Not only for homework but for life. If a child is procrastinating over and over
again, and the parent is walking around nagging, you have to ask yourself as a parent, is this
a way I want to be spending my time? I think in families that have specific homework
time setup, that’s helpful. That creates the expectation is this is the
time the homework gets done if you don’t do your homework this during this time it’s you
who suffer the consequences. Your teacher will not give you points. You will not learn what you need to learn. If that’s the choice you’re going to make,
I don’t think it’s a wise one, but I don’t want to spend my time chasing you around,
telling you when to do your homework. It’s your responsibility. And, maybe a matter of letting the child suffer
the consequences for some of this. If you do that, make sure you talk to the
teacher first to say, “We’ve got a thing going on at home. I want my kid to be more independent. Here’s my strategy. I don’t want to be sitting with her all the
time. So, I’m telling her, this is the time between
6 o’clock and 8 o’clock, is homework time.” A lot of parents like to get their kids a
chance to crash a little bit when they come home from school. Throw their book bag down, go get a snack,
flop on the couch, do some social media. That’s fine. But, I think if there’s a ritualistic time
that’s adhered to by everybody in the family. This is homework time. You can choose not to do your homework, but
you can’t do anything else during that time. And, the kid will get so bored and she’ll
want to do the homework. I think rituals are important about this. I don’t like the idea of parents chasing around
after kid and saying, “You need to get started. You need to get started.” You can offer an incentive program. You can say, “I know it’s hard for you to
get started, and we have some tokens here …” For a younger child, you could use them
and say, “If you get started within 10 minutes, you get a token. And, you know what? Those tokens turn into TV time or internet
gaming time. And, you can use those whenever you want.” For an older child, you say, “I know you have
trouble getting started, maybe you need some more incentive. Do you want to go to that dance this weekend? You want to go to that movie? You want to do something with your friends? If you get started, every five minutes you
start closer to the start time, you get that extra time. You want to stay out later? Stay out later. Let’s make a trade. Let’s make a deal.” That’s what I would say. Bribery is not a bad thing. [inaudible 00:50:10] reasons. I like that you covered incentives in there,
because we had a parent asking about that as well. Also with the structure, I think that’s super
helpful to think about, finding a structure that works for your family, and your child. We had a parent asking is it better to give
them time off after school, or is it better to get started right away. What I’m hearing from you, I think is that,
it really depends on what’s working for that child. But, setting up the same routine every day,
and maybe have your child be involved in that decision of, do you want to take an hour off
after school and then get started. But then, just sticking to it and knowing,
we’re gonna do this at the same time every day. Right, and if it doesn’t work, say to your
child, “You thought that was a good strategy and I respect that, but it doesn’t look like
it’s working for you. Do you?” The child would have to say, he may not say
it, but they may say, “Yup, you’re right.” “We have an idea as your parent, that might
work a little better. Are you willing to listen to this?” The kid says, “No.” “Okay, then when would you like to hear it? Because I will give you that advice. It looks like now is not a good time.” And the kid would say, “How ’bout never? Is never a good time?” I would say, “I’m going to tell you this,
what I have to tell you before 7 o’clock tonight. You can pick any time you want until then. But, I don’t talk to you by 7, you’re going
to hear it. So, it’s going to come.” I love that idea of also setting it up, kind
of like a research study. that can be kind of fun for kids, of figuring
out, okay well this week or for the next two weeks we’re gonna try doing it this time. And then, seeing if it works. Then reconnecting with your child and talking
about whether it worked, what worked, what didn’t work, and making changes to see if
something else might work better. Right. I think the key to success in doing that kind
of assessment of what works, as a parent is not talking too much. Say very little. Don’t expect your kid to say a lot in return,
a nod is good enough. A lot of things you will say to your kids
throughout their life. They’ll never respond to, but believe me it
goes into their brain and it doesn’t just fall under the floor. They get it. We had several parents talking about, feeling
like their child has just too much homework, and it’s really overwhelming, and there’s
not enough time to get through it in the day. Do you have suggestions for figuring out how
much is too much homework for your child, and how do you talk to the teacher about getting
accommodations or modifications to those homework assignments, so that it’s not so overwhelming? Yeah. That’s a great question, and it’s a common
question that I hear from parents. What you need to do first of all, is find
out what what school what the expectations are at school for how long the homework assignment
should take. For little kids, they don’t have as much homework,
there are some formulas around for how much homework kids should have based on … I don’t
have available to you right now, you probably have it on the site. But, I think you should say to the teacher,
“My kid is taking two hours to do this math worksheet. How long do you think she should take?” A lot of times when teachers find out that
kids are an extraordinary long amount of time to do their work, they say, “I’m going to
say to the kids, you should work on this for 30 minutes. You should put your start time and your stop
time down. When you’re done, you’re done. Because, I thought, when I send this home,
most kids in the class would be able to do this whole thing in 30 minutes. Some kids, I realize, take longer. They’re more careful, they’re slower, they
erase more, they fix more. I was to find out what the kids in my class
are doing.” If a parent could make a suggestion, at least
ask the teacher the question, how long do you expect the kids at your third grade, fourth
grade, fifth grade class to be doing this? The other question to ask to the teachers,
my kid has multiple teachers, he’s in middle school. He’s got four teachers. They all have homework. Do you guys talk to each other about how long
your homework is on average each night? Do you know what’s going home in terms of
expectations or the time it will take to get this done? Same thing for high school. It’s a little harder because high school kids
don’t like parents getting involved in these kinds of things, but it’s a really good question
for a parent to encourage their high school kid to go to their guidance counselor and
say, “You know what, I’m spending seven hours a night for homework. I’m going to bed at two o’clock in the morning. I know and that neurobiologically sleep is
helpful for me as a student. I’m not getting it. Am I doing something wrong?” And, a good guidance counselor might check
in with the teachers and say, “What are your expectations about this?” There are different ways to handle that. But, there should be a reasonable amount of
homework and the amount of time it takes, should not add to the stress. A lot of teachers say, “Well do the problems
that you can, and the one you can’t circle and you’ll bring those back tomorrow, because
those are the ones that are challenging.” Lo and behold, half the class had difficulty
with items number seven, twelve, and fifteen. “We’re talk about those today.” That’s the kind of homeschool collaboration
I think that helps in this situation. Thank you. We had a couple questions from parents who
we’re wondering about, if you could talk a little bit about executive function skills,
and how necessary they are for getting homework done. We know the parents that we’re asking this
have children who have ADHD, and we know that kids with ADHD struggle more in executive
function areas like paying attention, organizing assignments, keeping track of them, knowing
when they’re due, and planning out how to get them done. But, Jerry do you have any advice for parents
who have kids who have ADHD, or struggle in these areas of executive function? Yeah. I would like to think that the kids who have
difficulties with executive functioning are getting some kind of help in school, either
in their general education programs, because these plagues so many kids, or in a special
education program by a teacher who is responsible for teaching kids how to improve their executive
functioning skills. If that’s the case, then that should be a
portable skill. Homework assignment should go home, in an
ideal world the teacher who’s working on these things would say to a child, “Which skills
do you need to apply to this homework this evening?” And then, the next day when the resource room
teacher looks over the homework or the classroom teacher looks over homework, the question
should be, “Were you right? Did you need these skills? And then, did you use these skills?” If parents are involved in that close relationship
with the school, and they’re mutually working on improving the executive functioning abilities
of the child. The parent can say to the child, “Did your
teacher talk to you about what might be difficult for you?” Or, “You’re sitting down here with a task
that requires five different steps. What’s the strategy that you’re going to use
to deal with this?” Not just, do your homework. I think you have to place responsibility. Again, the question is how much scaffolding
does a child need to do this kind of work. If you provide the skeleton all the time,
then the child never learns to do the executive functioning skills. Executive function tools are critical, they’re
important for every task in life. They’re the ability to think about thinking,
how you think about complex tasks, and do those kinds of things. It’s an important time to reinforce the practice
with executive functioning. Like taking piano lessons, if you go to a
teacher once a week for a lesson you never rehearse the songs that you’re supposed to
use. The same thing is true for executive functioning
skills. You have to practice them and people have
to have an expectation that a child will practice these skills, and then they’ll ask them to
talk about how it worked for them. That’s what I think. Sounds simple, it’s not simple. It’s complex. It takes more communication, but it’s really
important. You can’t leave these things to chance. Yeah, absolutely. And, scaffolding those skills, I’m sure is
really important for these kids to help them figure out where they are struggling, and
where you can support them as a parent. We know that kids with ADHD, it takes them
longer to develop these skills and they might need more scaffolding, but Jerry, as you’ve
been saying, they still need to be able to practice those skills and to talk about them
and know what’s working for them and what’s not working for them. Sometimes parents having that conversation
with the child is the only way they’re going to really like think through those skills,
and learn how to develop them more. Right. Jerry, unfortunately we have [inaudible 00:58:43]. This has been so helpful. Do you have any last thoughts that you wanted
to give to our viewers today? I think the major take-home message, if this
is a chronic problem for you, that is stress at home around homework, there’s a problem. And, it’s not your kid. Your kid may need help in developing skills
that allow him or her to be more successful during this time, but homework shouldn’t be
a time of chronic unrelenting stress for kids and families. We have so little time to spend with our kids
in the first place, we don’t want to be spending time struggling with them over something that
should be more manageable, and that requires some communication with the school to make
sure it this happens. I don’t want families to suffer because of
this. If you’re dealing with a child with any kind
of special need or challenge, that’s already a lot of work. Homework should be a time where a kid can
feel successful and the parents should be able to watch the child feel the joy of being
successful. That would be my goal. I wish you all the very best of luck in then
venture. Those are great words to end up. Jerry, thank you so much for being here. And, to our viewers, thank you for joining
us. If you missed any part of this chat, if you
want to re-watch it, you can find it. We’re going to archive it on our site, so
that you can re-watch it, look at those slides, take down some notes if you need to. But, you can find all of our past chats and
our upcoming chats and webinars at If you had a question that didn’t get answered,
or if you want to interact more with other parents and families, you can join our community
at, where you can ask questions and interact with other families. Thank you all so much for joining us today. Have a good day.

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