During the middle- and high-school years, homework gets more intense and grades start to matter more.

At the same time, teens face a lot of other big changes. They're adjusting to the physical and emotional effects of puberty, while busy social lives and sports commitments gain importance, and many also take part-time jobs.

Parents can play a crucial role in helping teens handle these challenges and succeed in school by lending a little help, support, and guidance, and by knowing what problems demand their involvement and which ones require them to hang back.

Setting Up Shop

Make sure your teen has a quiet, well-lit, distraction-free place to study. The space should be stocked with paper, pencils, a calculator, dictionary, thesaurus, and any other necessary supplies. It should be away from distractions like TVs, video games, smartphones, and other devices.

Your teen may prefer to retreat to a private space to work rather than study surrounded by parents and siblings. Grant that independence, but check in from time to time to make sure that your teen hasn't gotten distracted.

If your teen needs a computer for assignments, try to set it up in a common space, not in a bedroom, to discourage playing video games, chatting with or emailing friends, or surfing the Internet for fun during study time. Also consider parental controls, available through your Internet service provider (ISP), and software that blocks and filters any inappropriate material.

Find out which sites teachers are recommending and bookmark them for easy access. Teach your teen how to look for reliable sources of information and double-check any that look questionable.

A Parent's Supporting Role

When it comes to homework, be there to offer support and guidance, answer questions, help interpret assignment instructions, and review the completed work. But resist the urge to provide the right answers or complete assignments.

It can be difficult to see your kids stressed out over homework, especially when there's a test or important deadline looming. But you can help by teaching them the problem-solving skills they need to get through their assignments and offering encouragement as they do.

More tips to help make homework easier for your teen:

  • Plan ahead. Regularly sit down with your teen to go over class loads and make sure they're balanced. If your teen has a particularly big workload from classes, you may want to see if you can shuffle the daily schedule so that there's a study hall during the day or limit after-school activities. Teachers or guidance counselors might have some perspective on which classes are going to require more or less work.
  • Establish a routine. Send the message that schoolwork is a top priority with ground rules like setting a regular time and place each day for homework to be done. And make it clear that there's no TV, phone calls, video game-playing, etc., until homework is done and checked.
  • Instill organization skills. No one is born with great organizational skills — they're learned and practiced over time. Most kids first encounter multiple teachers and classrooms in middle school, when organization becomes a key to succeeding. Give your teen a calendar or personal planner to help get organized.
  • Apply school to the "real world." Talk about how what teens learn now applies outside the classroom, such as the importance of meeting deadlines — as they'll also have to do in the workplace — or how topics in history class relate to what's happening in today's news.

Homework Problems

Especially in the later grades, homework can really start to add up and become harder to manage. These strategies can help:

  • Be there. You don't have to hover at homework time, but be around in case you're needed. If your son is frazzled by geometry problems he's been trying to solve for hours, for instance, suggest he take a break, maybe by shooting some hoops with you. A fresh mind may be all he needed, but when it's time to return to homework, ask how you can help.
  • Be in touch with school. Maintain contact with guidance counselors and teachers throughout the school year to stay informed, especially if your teen is struggling. They'll keep you apprised of what's going on at school and how to help your teen. They can guide you to tutoring options, offer perspective on course load, and provide guidance on any issues, such as dyslexia, ADHD, or vision or hearing difficulties. You can also be kept in the loop about tests, quizzes, and projects.
  • Don't forget the study skills. Help your teen develop good study skills — both in class and on homework. No one is born knowing how to study and often those skills aren't stressed in the classroom. When you're helping your teen study for a test, for instance, suggest such strategies as using flashcards to memorize facts or taking notes and underlining while reading.
  • Encourage students to reach out. Most teachers are available for extra help before or after school, and also might be able to recommend other resources. Encourage your teen to ask for help, if needed, but remember that in school students are rewarded for knowing the right answers, and no one likes to stand out by saying that they don't have them. Praise your teen's hard work and effort, and ask the guidance counselor or teachers for resources for support if you need them.

Don't wait for report cards to find out that there are problems at school. The sooner you intervene, the sooner you can help your teen get back on track.

Learning for Life

Make sure your teen knows that you're available if there's a snag, but that it's important to work independently. Encourage effort and determination — not just good grades. Doing so is crucial to motivating your kids to succeed in school and in life.

With a little support from parents, homework can be a positive experience for teens and foster lifelong skills they'll need to succeed in school and beyond.

Back to Articles


Related Articles

Note-Taking Tips

Want to stay on top of your schoolwork by taking great notes? Here's how!

Read More

Helping With Homework

Tips and advice on helping kids and teens with classwork and problems at school.

Read More

How to Make Homework Less Work

Having trouble getting a handle on all of your homework? Get your work space set, your schedule organized, and your studying done with the help of this article.

Read More

Studying for Tests

You have a history test tomorrow, a math test the next day, and weekly French pop quizzes. Don't panic - our article provides tips on how to study.

Read More

Organizing Schoolwork & Assignments

It's not just for school: Mastering the skills of getting organized, staying focused, and seeing work through to the end will help in just about everything you do.

Read More

Help Your Child Get Organized

Most kids generate a little chaos and disorganization. But if you'd like yours to be more organized and to stay focused on tasks, such as homework, here are 3 steps that make it possible.

Read More

Is Your Child Too Busy?

Some kids have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Is your child too busy?

Read More

Stress & Coping Center

Visit our stress and coping center for advice on how to handle stress, including different stressful situations.

Read More

Back to School

Kids often have a tough time making the back-to-school transition. Here's how to help them.

Read More

Top 10 Homework Tips

Kids are more successful in school when parents take an active interest in homework - here are ways to help.

Read More

Childhood Stress

Being a kid doesn't always mean being carefree - even the youngest tots worry. Find out what stresses kids out and how to help them cope.

Read More

Test Anxiety

Everyone feels a little nervous and stressed before a test. And a touch of nervous anticipation can actually help keep you at peak performance. But for some people, this normal anxiety is more intense.

Read More

Starting High School

The transition from middle school to high school is an important one. Here are a few topics that commonly worry incoming freshmen and some things you might want to know about them.

Read More

Helping Your Gradeschooler With Homework

During grade school, kids start getting homework to reinforce and extend classroom learning and teach them important study skills. Here's how parents can help.

Read More

Balancing Schoolwork and Hospital Stays

Every student finds it hard to stay on top of schoolwork sometimes. So what happens when you have to miss a lot of school? This article for teens offers tips and advice.

Read More

Homework Help

Writing a report? Studying for a test? Having problems at school? Get tips and advice.

Read More

School Counselors

School counselors can give you all sorts of tips and support on solving problems and making good decisions. But how do you meet with a counselor and what is it like? Find out here.

Read More

5 Ways to Make Online Research Easier

When researching school projects, it helps to know how to evaluate and choose online resources. Here are tips.

Read More

10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Middle School

As students grow more independent during middle school, it can be challenging for parents to know how to stay involved. Here are 10 tips.

Read More

10 Ways to Help Your Teen Succeed in High School

Even though teens are seeking independence, parental involvement is still an important ingredient for academic achievement.

Read More

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2019 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

Search our entire site.