Kids and Homework: How Much Is Too Much?

Kids have a lot to juggle in today’s world. They have school, activities, family life, and household chores. Teenagers may be learning to also balance having a job. Maybe your child is dealing with peer pressure or bullies. They may be experiencing major issues in their lives, such as a divorce or a big move. For many kids, juggling life and doing homework can feel stressful.

Path to improved well being

The National Education Association (NEA) endorses a “10-minute rule” standard for homework. This means 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night. Some recent studies have shown that U.S. students are receiving 3 times as much homework as is recommended. Other studies show that they’re receiving just the right amount to be successful.

How do you know when your child is receiving “too much” homework? Has your child:

  • Shed tears over the amount of homework he or she has?
  • Stayed up late working on assignments on many occasions?
  • Missed important family or school events or used a lot of weekend time to complete homework?
  • Started to show physical, emotional, or behavioral signs of stress related to doing their homework?

Too much stress can affect the way a child acts, feels, and thinks. Depending on your child’s age, signs of stress can include:

  • Headaches.
  • Decreased or increased appetite.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Nightmares.
  • New or recurrent bedwetting.
  • Stomach pains.
  • Worry, anxiety.
  • Tension, inability to relax.
  • New or recurring fears.
  • Clinging, not wanting you out of sight.
  • Anger, crying, whining.
  • Uncontrolled emotions.
  • Aggressive or stubborn behavior.
  • Unwillingness to participate in family or school activities.

Things to consider

The stress of managing homework can affect the whole family. It is important to communicate with your child and listen to his or her feelings. If your child is feeling overwhelmed and unable to keep up with his or her homework, there are things you can do to help.

  • Review how and where your child is completing homework. Are they free from distractions?
  • Review your child’s schedule. Is he or she overbooked? It may be time to eliminate some commitments.
  • Provide a safe, secure, quiet environment for your child to complete homework.
  • Set clear homework expectations and routines at the beginning of the school year.
  • Encourage your child to take breaks when needed and to take time to relax.
  • Encourage physical activity.
  • Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.
  • Allow your child to make decisions and have some control over how, when, and where their homework gets done.

You may not be able to control the amount of homework your child is being assigned. It’s important to communicate with your child and listen to their feelings. If you feel that your child is overwhelmed by homework, have a conversation with their teacher(s). Describe the issues you are having. Ask for tips in making the homework process flow better.

If you feel that you’ve done everything you can to help your child and they’re still feeling stressed, it may be time to ask for help. Your family doctor can help you come up with a plan to better manage their stress.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What are some ways I can help my child manage the physical symptoms of his or her stress?
  • What healthy habits can I encourage to help my child manage stress?
  • How do I know my child is getting enough sleep?

Resources

Medline Plus, Stress in Childhood