Delegate. If you know that the daily routine of homework will inevitably end up with someone in tears, pass this job onto someone else. There is an Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself”, which rings true in almost every facet of life, including parental homework anxiety. There is no shame in knowing your strengths as a parent, and the things that are just not your “cup of tea”. And, if homework brings about stress and chaos, delegate it out! Perhaps your partner can take on this task, or maybe an older sibling, a babysitter, or another family member can become the designated “Homework Helper”.
Multitask. I am well aware that it isn’t always feasible to delegate out the job of “Homework Helper”. In situations where the bulk of the job falls on your shoulders, and yours alone, find something else to do during homework time. At my oldest child’s first Back to School Night in kindergarten, I remember the teacher saying that homework is for the child to do, NOT THE PARENT. This seems pretty obvious. But, how often do we, as parents, get frustrated that our child doesn’t know all of the answers? Remember, homework is not supposed to be done perfectly. It helps the teacher to see how much the child has retained and where reinforcement might be needed. In fact, many elementary schools do not allow children to use erasers on their homework because teachers want to see what the children know, not what they have erased and then corrected. While this makes sense, how can we work this into an actual practice? So often, children sit down to do their homework and say “I need help”, before they even try to do the work on their own. We certainly can’t ignore their requests for help, can we? Well, why not make your child’s homework time the same time that you get something else done nearby? Perhaps your child aways does homework at the kitchen table, you can use that time to check email, write out bills, cook dinner- this way, you are in the same room as your child and you are available to help to clarify directions, but, it is clear that the homework is your child’s job, and you have a job to do, also.
You are not alone. Just browse Facebook for an hour, and you will see that this is a struggle for many parents. As with any anxiety provoking situation, in the midst of it, breathe. I am a big proponent of deep breathing. I find that inhaling over a count of four, holding it for a count of four and exhaling over a count of four, helps a great deal when you are starting to feel at your wit’s end. This may need to be repeated several times, depending on the level of frustration or anxiety that you feel. I also think it’s great when parents can support one another, so, reach out to friends and family. Who knows? Maybe a friend has a helpful technique that works for her. And, if nothing else, venting to someone close to you can help. When you choose to show your vulnerability and own your struggle, it opens the door to real connection. And, who cannot benefit from that?