As humans, we all deal with stress. From the time we are born we deal with fears and anxieties. As adults, we hopefully find ways to cope with our stress. We may exercise, go to the spa, meditate or write in a journal. But what about our kids? What are their fears and how do they cope with them. According to recent research, 53% of kids say their biggest stress is homework. I actually was shocked when I heard this. I assumed that children would be most anxious about dying or maybe the Boogyman. Then I thought about it...We feel pressured by external pressures all of the time and kids feel this pressure as well. They may worry that if they don’t get good grades they won’t be loved or they won’t belong.
There are days when I pick up my kids from school and even though I try my best to greet them in a positive, cheerful way, they are sometimes snappy and cranky. I recently asked my daughter, “How are you today?” “I have homework,” she replies with her head down and in a defeated voice. After some deeper inquiry, I found out how much pressure she feels due to her homework. She would rather not do it but has to. Because of this she feels burdened and stressed out.
So what is the solution? While my daughter suggests a worldwide petition against assigning homework, I’m not sure how well this would go over. A more realistic solution is that we need to mirror for our kids how to show up with less pressure. Here are some tips that I have seen work again and again. First of all, we need to really listen to children and pay attention to their concerns. Sometimes just being validated can help. If they are consistently having problems, it may be time to check in with their teachers. Second, model good coping skills. In additon to typical stress management like deep breathing etc., another way to do this is to avoid procrastination. When we leave work until the very end we just end up adding more pressure. Also, show them it is ok to ask for help. Asking for help creates connection and will help you or their teacher know what the struggle is. Lastly, let them know it is ok and they don’t have to be perfect. Let them know that effort is more important than results and that mistakes help us to learn.
As tough as it is, homework is a reality in our kids’ lives. So, we need to help them find ways to cope. By mirroring and empathizing, you can become the best role model you can be.