By Dr. Gail Gross
Another school year is upon us, and that means the dreaded “H” word for many families: homework. Does your child find it difficult to complete homework assignments? Is it a daily battle between you and your child to even start on homework?
If so, know that you are not alone. However, homework doesn’t have to be a daily struggle between parent and child, and between child and learning. There are several things you can do to set up healthy study habits that can help your child succeed throughout the school year.
- Get up and go for a walk.If you sense your child struggling while doing homework, encourage him/her to take a short 10-20 minute break and take a walk outside, stretch and let the brain roam. Then your child can circle back to the homework with a fresh new outlook, ready to complete the assignment.
- Take a snack break. Much like a short exercise break, healthy food is needed for the brain to be able to absorb and retain knowledge. Give your child access to healthy snacks such as blueberries or a glass of milk — nutritious food and beverages that will help recharge the brain.
- Listen to Baroque music in the background while doing homework. Music allows your child’s body to become relaxed and gives his/her mind a chance to open to its fullest potential. This, in turn, brings forth the possibility for memory and learning to function in a heightened state. Baroque music moves between 50 and 80 beats per minute and allows you to have better focusand concentration. Music in general has been proven to help lower blood pressure, improve circulation and increase blood flow, and can help us study and perform spatial tasks better.
Jannalea Hoffman, a music therapist from the University of Kansas, found that music can help students do better on tests. She created a Baroque piece of music that followed slow sound patterns and played it as background music for a group of nursing students taking a test; the control group did not hear the music. Hoffman found that those listening to the music had lower heart rates and higher test scores than the control group.
- Get a good night’s sleep.Our brains need sleep to recharge, and studies show that sleep triggers changes in the brain that help improve memory. Then, if you get a good night’s sleep, memory tasks can be performed more quickly and with less stress and anxiety. Sleep lowers stress and helps you think less emotionally and more critically.
- Establish a routine. Younger children especially benefit from routines. Having a set time each day when your child regularly does homework can help set expectations and present less resistance from your child. Try to clear a specific designated, well-lit space in your house for homework, so that your child knows where to keep books, papers, pencils, and other study tools; by setting aside space just for studying, you are giving the signal to your child that this is an important role in his/her life. When you structure a positive environment in which to learn, it’s like a trigger of expectation that cues your child that it’s time to study.
Set up these helpful study habits early on, so that your child develops a healthy relationship with homework and studying for school. Remember: younger children may especially look to you as their role model, and the more you approach studying with a positive, encouraging stance, the more likely they are to embrace healthy study habits that will last a lifetime.
Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., is a nationally recognized family and child development expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times and USA Today. ABC, CBS and KHOU, Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Dr. Gross’ soon-to-be second book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, teaches parents how to enhance a child’s learning potential through various developmental stages. Two additional books are slated to follow, including The Only Way Out Is Through, a Jungian approach to navigating life’s transitions including grieving, and Defining Moments, which recounts the defining moments of celebrity guests as shared with Dr. Gross during interviews on PBS’ “Let’s Talk.” www.drgailgross.com