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Fifth-Grader Suffers from Homework Stress
Q: My son carries a 30-50 lb. backpack home from school. We're often up doing homework until midnight. I've talked to his teacher and all she says is "It's my job to give them this much work." He's complained of stomach pains on the weekdays, but the doctors can't find the problem. He can't always get all of his work done, so he often says he's stupid. He may fail the fifth grade. Is this a classic case of "homework stress"?
A: No fifth-grader should be staying up until midnight doing homework. It would appear that he has internalized the stress, fear, and anxiety that he feels and that he's exhibited these emotions in the form of stomach problems.
Perhaps his teacher is indeed giving her class too much homework, simply because she believes that this is her job. I believe that the vast majority of our nation's schoolchildren are given far too much time-consuming homework, and that the bulk of it does not contribute significantly to their learning.
You cannot continue to stay up until midnight every school night doing his homework with him. You also cannot allow him to continue to feel so pressured by schoolwork and to believe that he is stupid because school is overwhelming him. If this pattern continues, your son will become more and more stressed, physically sick, and afraid that he will fail school altogether.
You must find out why your son cannot keep up academically. Is he lacking fundamental knowledge in his subjects? Might he have learning difficulties because he needs to be taught in a different way than his teacher is instructing him? Your son needs a comprehensive evaluation performed by a team of professionals who can identify and diagnose his current problems. Anything less than this would be cheating him out of the help that he deserves. He doesn't deserve the sickness or the low self-esteem that is plaguing him.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.