Once we have children in school, must our entire evening be about getting them to do their homework? What about just being a mom, giving them love and support in other areas of their lives?

Chronic stress levels are increasing in homes across the nation, with job insecurity, hurried mealtimes, sleep deprivation, shortened vacations, and fears and worries varying from concerns about aging parents to the state of the world.

Our children aren’t immune from picking up on these tensions. Teachers, counselors, and psychiatrists are questioning more and more whether bringing schoolwork home is a good thing.

Are they learning discipline, responsibility, and the importance of academics, or are they being denied the respite of free play, easy interaction with family, and restful sleep?

In a recent article on www.philly.com, Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D., Lead Psychologist of The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia tells this story:

An elementary school teacher in Texas became a hero to many overnights after her letter to parents informing them of her new homework policy went viral.  ‘After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.’

“She went on to remind parents that ‘research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance’ and implored them to ‘spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success, such as spending time together as a family, playing outside, and getting to bed early.””

Says Dr. Dahlsgaard, “The association between homework and school success, even among older adolescents is nonexistent or weak.”

She goes on to say that in her own practice, she sees over-tired kids and stressed-out parents overwhelmed by the time spent with homework, which she says “murders joy.”

With our own family, it was when we heard how much homework our fourth grader was going to have that we decided to educate our children at home. We decided the school had them for long enough without superimposing its demands on our family time.

Psychiatrist Robert E. Kay, M.D., who has worked with adolescents for decades, and who wrote the Foreword to my bookThe Seven Secrets of Successful Parents, recommends that parents minimize their interactions about school and just encourage their child and answer questions when asked. He suggests that even when report cards come home, the parent only looks if the child wants to share it with them.

The results in his experience of leaving the school relationship up to the child were very positive. To many parents’ surprise, their children usually improved their school performance.

In today’s busy world, we delegate a lot to the outside world. Parents are putting in more hours at work, and children often have before-school and after-school programs. And then many families think they have to create a record of sports, artistic and charitable engagements for their children.

Likewise, we eat out or buy take-out, and even eating together or sharing face-to-face conversation over food has largely disappeared. Often everyone sits together focused on their own cell phones. Sometimes you must really fight for real family time.

Surely if the school is demanding homework your child must be supported in doing it, but try not to make it appear that their future depends of its successful completion. It will help much more if you relax and be a source of confidence, safety, gentle encouragement, and love.

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