Can Homework Cause Anxiety in Kids and Teens?

Photo of young Caucasian blond girl wearing overalls sitting at a desk with several books open and writing in a journal. Photo could represent the anxiety she feels when doing homework and the need for anxiety treatment for kids in Illinois or Florida.

Did you know that students between 6 and 12 years old spend an average of 6 hours a week on homework? For high schoolers, it’s 3 hours per day. Unfortunately for many kids and teens, homework has become synonymous with stress and anxiety.

The amount of time students spend on homework has been trending up over time. Experts maintain this uptick is proportional to the increase in test scores, essay length requirements, and the pressure on students to succeed.

But does more homework necessarily mean more stress and anxiety?

The answer is…it depends.

Kids can become anxious about homework for a number of reasons besides the amount and time required to complete it. They may become anxious due to lack of understanding, low confidence in their skills, or from challenging assignments.

They may be unsure of how to start an assignment, or they worry they won’t understand the instructions. Focus can also be an issue, or they might feel they need more time to complete their work but are too stressed to ask for it.

And then there’s the whole issue of timing. When is the BEST time for getting homework done?

Advantages of Completing Homework Right After School

There has long been a debate about the best time for students to complete their homework – immediately after school or after some downtime later in the afternoon. Is one option better at warding off homework anxiety than the other? Read on for the advantages of each option.

When it comes time to complete homework, getting right to it after school has some benefits.  The most obvious one is that kids can get their work done earlier and have more time to relax later in the afternoon or evening.

Here are some additional benefits:

  • Kids are more focused as they’ve just come from school where they’ve been concentrating hard all day. The momentum to complete work is already there.
  • They can finish it all at once rather than doing it in pieces throughout the afternoon and then enjoy their evening.
  • Kids learn that work comes first and play will happen after completing their school responsibilities.
  • There is less arguing about homework because the expectation is always to get going and get it done!

Advantages of Completing Homework After Some Downtime

Others argue that after a long day at school, kids need some downtime before they can focus on homework. Giving your child some time to relax, have a snack, and maybe play outside before getting started can serve them well.

Many parents find that their kids are more relaxed and creative later in the afternoon, after a break. Expending energy outside also helps them to stay alert and energetic when it comes to finishing their homework.

Remember that the purpose of homework is to give kids time to practice what they have learned during that day’s school session. But when their brains are still full of school-day information, and their bodies need a break from sitting at a desk, those assignments can be very difficult. A break may be the best remedy.

As a parent, you know your child best. Some kids may be more productive sitting down to complete their homework right away while others do much better with an extended break first. With after school sports and activities, you may have days where the only time homework assignments are going to get done are later in the evening. Do what works best for your child and family!

5 Tips for Making Homework Time Go Smoothly

Aside from the decision of WHEN to complete homework, there’s also the anxiety that can surface around the assignments themselves. It’s a lot to deal with as a parent when you’ve had a full day yourself.

Here are some tips to make sure homework time goes smoothly.

Establish a time and place

Create a routine in which your child goes to their designated study spot at the same time every day. Have them work on homework until they’re finished. Try experimenting with different time slots to complete homework assignments until it becomes clear what time is most effective for your child. Also make sure your child is getting enough rest and exercise each evening.

Write down assignments

Teach your child to write down assignments in a notebook every day as this habit encourages them to take responsibility for their own planning. Then have them read instructions carefully before starting any homework assignments. Some parents prefer to check with their child’s teachers regularly to determine what work needs to be done. Whether you choose to do so or not, your role should be one of monitor and not project manager. Leave that role to your child.

Break up large tasks

Show your child how to break up larger tasks for homework assignments and projects. For example, if an assignment includes an essay or two pages of math problems, ask your child to try dividing it into manageable parts. Doing so helps them see that completing any one part is not overwhelming. This tip is especially helpful if your child often feels stressed or anxious when doing homework or struggles with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Offer to help your child if needed

Kids can feel intimidated by having their parents look over their shoulders while they work. Give your child the space they need. If your child isn’t confident in their ability to do the work, offer to help at first. Then the more confident they become in completing the task independently, increase the physical distance. This sends your child the message that you know they have what it takes to work through difficult assignments.

Check for understanding as well as completion

Studies show that when parents make themselves available to help their kids with homework, they earn better grades. It’s important to encourage your child to ask questions when they don’t understand. Give them the support they need and encourage them to keep working at it. Over time, they’ll see their hard work pay off and realize they can do hard things.

In sum, homework can be stressful! Not understanding the best time of day to complete it, how to plan and schedule it, and how to get help when they don’t understand is often anxiety producing for both kids and teens. The good news is that there are loads of opportunities to teach important life skills to your child.

Your child is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all homework approach for all kids. So much depends on your child’s temperament, their energy level, time commitments, and individual preferences – both yours and your child’s. The best thing you can do is experiment until you find what works best for the entire family.

Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois

If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, there is hope! Anxiety is highly treatable and online anxiety treatment at Briefly Counseling can help.

Using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, I help kids and teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves.

And kids love being able to receive counseling from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Studies have consistently proven that online therapy delivers equal results to in-office counseling.

As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.

Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 18 as well as Christian counseling.

Whether you’re on the North Shore, in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, Glenview, or downstate Illinois, I can help. Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.