Q – Since my divorce my 8-year-old son hasn’t been finishing his class work at school or doing his homework. Every night getting homework done is a battle. I get frustrated and he ends up crying. I don’t know if it’s because of the divorce or if it’s something else. Every time I bring it up, he shuts down. What can I do?
A – When behavior problems with kids crop up following a divorce, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s driving the train. Before jumping to conclusions, I’d suggest investigating things further to help you hone in on the issue.
FIRST STEP: Schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher.
If you haven’t already, set up a meeting with your child’s teacher. Teachers spend a lot of time with our children, which make them a great source of information when kids are having problems at home. Find out how he is doing in the classroom and what the teacher’s perspective is about why schoolwork isn’t getting done. How willing he is to engage in assignments?
Most importantly you want to make sure there aren’t any issues going on that are affecting his ability to learn. Second grade is often a big leap for some children and can be really stressful. Typically second graders have more complex academic demands placed on them while they still in the process of developing multi-tasking skills needed in the classroom. It’s possible that your child maybe feeling really overwhelmed with these new demands. Additionally, many learning disabilities can be easily overlooked at this age and don’t become evident until children are older. Ask the teacher for his or her observations – Is your son consistently struggling in all subjects or does he do better in some areas but not in others?
If there doesn’t seem to be any issues surrounding his ability to learn, explore other possible factors with your child’s teacher. How he is getting along with other students? What is his day-to-day disposition like in class? Does he talk about his family?
SECOND STEP: Give your son some breathing room.
If homework every evening is placing a strain on your relationship consider asking your child’s teacher if you can receive some of the assignments for the upcoming week in advance. For example, homework assignments such as writing spelling words, reading or math could be sent home on the previous Friday and done over the weekend. This gives you and your son less homework to focus on during the school week, less to battle over and more opportunity to make evenings relaxing.
THIRD STEP: Create a solution with your son.
After gathering additional information from the teacher, it would probably be a good idea to talk with your son about the problem in an open and honest way.
- Choose a time to talk when things are calm and distraction free.
- Give your son a chance to share his feelings without trying to fix the situation or offer advice. Then together brainstorm ideas about how to work on the homework problem. Write both of your ideas down and then talk about which ideas might work best.
- You also may want to consider using a “when, then” approach. For example, let your son know when he gets his homework out of the way, then he has the option of doing other “more fun” things, such as spending time doing something he enjoys like – playing outside, watching TV or perhaps spending time with you.