Reduce homework stress
Kathy Thomas, MD, director of pediatric neuropsychology at Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: The amount of homework my young children bring home seems to be overwhelming. How do I prevent them from feeling stressed and depressed?
Answer: As a parent, you can help your children along their unique, developmental journey. Maintaining a regular routine at home with meals and bedtime hours is important. Make sure your children have opportunities to relax, have fun, engage with the family and expend physical energy. Limit video game and television time. Respond to your children in a way that will communicate your belief in their ability to succeed.
When your child expresses unhappiness or anger about assigned homework, respond by saying, "Wow. That must feel overwhelming." Then they learn that it is OK to share how they feel and that they are not facing their struggles alone. When you ask, "What do you think is the most important thing to do first?" or "How much time do you think it will take you to do this part?" it increases a child's confidence in his or her ability to tackle problems.
Depressed children might become increasingly agitated, angry and irritable. Often a depressed child will make negative comments about themselves, or there will be a sudden change in personality. Sleep patterns or appetite might change. They might have an increase in attention-seeking behaviors or complain of stomachaches, headaches, aches and pains.
If you notice such behaviors, consult a qualified mental health professional to ensure that your child has the specific support he or she needs during an particularly difficult stretch. Depression is treatable and the world will appear much brighter and more hopeful when those supports are in place.