“When people think of procrastination, they think laziness,” said Michael Falconer, MSW-CSW, Clinical Social Worker at Avera Medical Group Brookings. “However, it may be a symptom of something more.”
Procrastination happens for a number of reasons:
- When a child has too many commitments, homework tends to take a back seat.
- Projects with lenient deadlines or vague expectations may be viewed as unimportant and easily shoved to the backburner.
- Perfectionism instills a fear of failure into its victims — avoiding the project avoids the pressure.
- A child may be overwhelmed with a large, challenging project. ‘This assignment is too big; where do I even start?’
- “Poor study routines,” added Falconer. “When kids get home, they just want to have fun.”
- TVs, tablets and phones are easily distracting.
Scrambling to finish homework at the last minute can result in poor work and lower grades. This, unfortunately, may hurt a child’s self-esteem, create feelings of inadequacy and affect friendships.
To help stop procrastination, Falconer offers five tools for parents and kids:
- Check in with the teacher. To avoid any confusion, kids should meet privately with their teacher to make sure they have a hard deadline and all of the project’s expectations. Encourage your child to keep you informed about major assignments so you can check in periodically.
- Break it up. Getting a large history project can be daunting. Have your child analyze the project and find ways to break it down into manageable pieces that can be tackled within 30 minutes each day. This helps prevent any last-minute chaos.
- Take a break. “It’s beneficial and necessary to recharge during study periods.” Falconer advises taking a 10-minute break after 30 minutes of homework, but no longer so your child doesn’t lose focus completely.
- Get others involved. Studying can be boring, but a study group may make it less so. Form a study group that meets regularly in one location or at different houses throughout the week.
- Create a study area. Designate a spot at home for studying that allows for limited distractions. A no-screen zone, if you will. Make sure this area is quiet, well-lit and fully stocked with school essentials.
Falconer’s last piece of advice is this: “Parents should be supportive and encouraging. Sometimes we get caught up in the ‘get-it-done’ mentality. Creating a safe environment where kids can openly express themselves can go a long way toward supporting their self-esteem and motivation.”