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Homework Anxiety: What It Looks Like and Why It Happens

By The Understood Team

At a Glance

  • Kids get anxious about homework for different reasons.

  • A common reason is that they’re struggling with the work itself.

  • Kids with homework anxiety might lie or make excuses to avoid homework.

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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 some kids, it’s not so simple. Homework makes them feel anxious and they may dread having to do it.

It’s not always easy to know when kids have anxiety about homework. You can try asking them about it. But kids aren’t always able to identify what they’re feeling or willing to talk about it.

Learn more about homework anxiety and what can help.

What Homework Anxiety Looks Like

Homework anxiety can start in early grade school and affect any child. But it’s an especially big issue for kids who are struggling in school.

Kids get anxious or worry about homework for different reasons. And they can show it in different ways.

Kids with homework anxiety might:

  • Find excuses to avoid homework

  • Lie about homework being done

  • Get angry, especially 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

Why Kids Get Homework Anxiety

One reason kids get homework anxiety is that they’re struggling with the work. They believe they can’t do it or don’t have the right support to get it done. They might also worry about falling behind their classmates.

If that’s the case, your child may not want to tell you. Talking with your child’s teacher can give you some insight into what’s happening in school. Is there a certain subject your child is having trouble with? Is it any homework that involves reading? Asking questions like these can help you understand if your child needs help in a specific area.

Here 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.

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

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

How to Help

The more you understand what’s happening, the better you can support your child. Ask questions to get your child to open up about school. Make it easier for your child to do homework by cutting down on distractions and giving your child “brain breaks.”

Also, try setting limits on homework. Many schools use the “10-minute rule”—that’s 10 minutes of homework per grade level. If your child doesn’t finish in that amount of time, talk to the teacher about what else might help.

Let your child know it’s OK to stop working for the night. Sleep affects how kids learn and cope with stress. Your child needs to be alert the next day to get schoolwork done.

And remember that some kids with homework anxiety are anxious about other things, too. Keep track of when your child gets anxious and what your child was doing right before getting anxious.

From there, talk with someone about what you’re seeing, like the teacher, another caregiver, or your health care provider. By working together, you’ll develop a clearer sense of what’s going on, and how to help.

Key Takeaways

  • Set time limits on homework and tell child it’s OK to stop working.

  • Kids with homework anxiety may be struggling with a specific skill.

  • Talk with your child’s teacher or another caregiver about what might be causing your child’s homework anxiety.

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Share Homework Anxiety: What It Looks Like and Why It Happens

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom