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Homework anxiety: Why it happens and how to help

By Gail Belsky

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Sometimes kids just don’t want to do homework. They complain, procrastinate, or rush through the work so they can do something fun. But for other kids, it’s not so simple. Homework may actually give them anxiety.

It’s not always easy to know when kids have homework anxiety. Some kids may share what they’re feeling when you ask. But others can’t yet identify what they’re feeling, or they’re not willing to talk about it.

Homework anxiety often starts in early grade school. It can affect any child. But it’s an especially big issue for kids who are struggling in school. They may think they can’t do the work. Or they may not have the right support to get it done. 

Keep in mind that some kids may seem anxious about homework but are actually anxious about something else. That’s why it’s important to keep track of when kids get anxious and what they were doing right before. The more you notice what’s happening, the better you can help.

Dive deeper

What homework anxiety looks like

Kids with homework anxiety might:

  • Find excuses to avoid homework

  • Lie about homework being done

  • Get consistently angry about homework

  • Be moody or grumpy after school

  • Complain about not feeling well after school or before homework time

  • Cry easily or seem overly sensitive

  • Be afraid of making even small mistakes

  • Shut down and not want to talk after school

  • Say “I can’t do it!” before even trying

Learn about other homework challenges kids might be facing

Why kids get homework anxiety

Kids with homework anxiety are often struggling with a specific skill. They might worry about falling behind their classmates. But there are other factors that cause homework anxiety: 

  • Test prep: Homework that helps kids prepare for a test makes it sound very important. This can raise stress levels.

  • Perfectionism: Some kids who do really well in a subject may worry that their work “won’t be good enough.”

  • Trouble managing emotions: For kids who easily get flooded by emotions, homework can be a trigger for anxiety. 

  • Too much homework: Sometimes kids are anxious because they have more work than they can handle.

Use this list to see if kids might have too much homework .

Next steps

When kids are having homework anxiety, families, educators, and health care providers should work together to understand what’s happening. Start by sharing notes on what you’re seeing and look for patterns . By working together, you’ll develop a clearer sense of what’s going on and how to help.

Parents and caregivers: Start by asking questions to get your child to open up about school . But if kids are struggling with the work itself, they may not want to tell you. You’ll need to talk with your child’s teacher to get insight into what’s happening in school and find out if your child needs help in a specific area.

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