1. Use a timer. This is helpful in two different ways; if you’re creative you can figure out how to use both. 1) If your child gets stuck, distracted, keeps getting up to walk around, can’t focus, can’t finish, etc, use a timer as a game, as in “let’s see how fast you can get your spelling words done!” Make certain rules, like the assignments have to be complete, legible, and show some effort. Then create scores, like they get 2 points if done in 30 minutes, 5 points if 30 min and >80% correct, etc. Involved your child in the brainstorming to see what motivates them and they think is doable. For your part, if they’re not earning the points, you’ve made it too hard. 2) If your child gets obsessive and keeps stalling due to perfectionist qualities, set a timer for a certain amount of time and score the same way. Keep the emphasis in this case on amount completed.

2. Take only a 20-30 minute break after school, and only if necessary. A lot of families let kids play for a few hours and then try to get it done in the evening, when it’s extra hard to shift gears, which makes for tears!

3. Keep time period reasonable and realistic -Figure out grade-wise what the amount of homework is supposed to be (in hours), then the amount of time you think your child can handle before going into a meltdown. Some kids are so exhausted from holding it together at school that they really have nothing left! In these cases with my patients, I fully support them being able to play and relax after school and sometimes even write letters to school personnel. This can be done without a formal IEP or 504, but it’s a lot harder without a legal plan in writing. There’s not much evidence that homework does any good beyond learning to read and solidifying facts like multiplication tables, and forcing a stressed child to do homework is counterproductive.

4. Use Sensory Motor tricks- tie an exercise band around the front legs of your child’s chair. They can press and pull the band with their feet or lower legs, which provides organizing sensory input. You can also try an exercise ball for them to sit on. Some kids even do better standing up. Experiment and see what works.

5. Create a Productice Environment- ideally, you want a completely plain room and desk with NOTHING for them to look at besides their work, and some white noise or classical music playing softly. Other kids yelling and running around is not conducive to concentrating! Have a healthy snack like nuts or celery and cream cheese. Chewing can be another organizing sensory trick.

6. Get a tutor or homework buddy- the tutor doesn’t have to be a genius, just someone who your child likes and responds to, who is calm and responsible. Kids take better direction from almost ANYONE other than mom or dad!

7. Break it down- do this for the entire homework assignment, then each subject-into steps. Check them off when completed. This prevents overwhelm and helps them focus on one assignment at a time.

Kids spend minimum 7-8 hours a day at school. Their time at home with you should not be torture!!

Author's Bio: 

Dr Victoria Dunckley is a board certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist practicing in Seal Beach, CA. For the last 11 years, she has worked in a variety of settings including community mental health, group and residential treatment center homes, and private practice; she's worked with thousands of children categorized as "severely emotionally disturbed". She specializes in working with the treatment-resistant population, including patients with: multiple or complex diagnoses; psychiatric conditions combined with medical or metabolic disorders; a history of failed medication trials; a history of in utero drug exposure, sensory processing disorder, and/or severe neglect/abuse. Her approach includes mirconutrient testing and supplementation, weight management related to psychiatric or metabolic conditions, or medications, and consultations with schools for Individualized Education Plans. See www.drdunckley.com for practice information and to receive her free monthly newsletter.