Homework and the Mentally Ill Child (Part 2 of 3)

October 12, 2010 Angela McClanahan

As I began discussing in last week's post, the challenges of parenting a child with a psychiatric illness aren't limited to just managing the illness. Like any other medical condition, psychiatric illness--even when under control--brings other issues to the party. Among them is homework. In this post, the "three-part-drama" of Homework continues.

Part II - The Battle Begins

homework3Let's say it's a good day. Not only has your child made it through a full day of school without any major incidents, she also remembered her homework, and her notebook, and her textbook. Dinner has been eaten, dishes have been washed, and the stage is set for an easy evening.

Oh, except your child has expended all her energy trying to make it through the school day--not to mention the extra effort it took to not forget her homework (and her notebook and her textbook, as she has every other night this week)--and the very idea of spending any more time on anything more challenging than staring at the television is too much for her exhausted brain to handle. Your cheery mention that it's "homework time" has her now dissolving into a puddle of tears and somewhat-decipherable screams about how much you hate her and how much her life sucks.

Enter drama, stage left.

Homework Habits When Your Child Has A Mental Illness

Every parent of a school-age child has received some sort of flyer about How To Facilitate Homework Habits. They typically suggest homework always be done in a designated spot, that said spot be quiet and clean and away from the rest of the family, and all kinds of other suggestions that probably don't work for our kids. A quiet spot away from the rest of the family? For my son, Bob, in the throes of paranoia, afraid to even go to the bathroom by himself? I don't think so. But the alternative--sitting in the family room at my desk--isn't much better, as his ADHD makes it almost impossible for him to concentrate in our presence.

The compromise, of course (for us, anyway), is to set him up in his room--and sit with him. I'm not sure which one of us hates this more. homework4He can't stand me watching him work, and has even less tolerance for my offering suggestions or pointing out an error. I can't stand the attitude he gives me when I am merely trying to help and would much rather be downstairs watching The First 48. (Especially considering most of Bob's homework thus far has been math--and when it comes to math, I am not smarter than a 5th grader and barely smarter than a 3rd grader.)

One way or another, we get through. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue and pretend I'm somewhere else until he's finally finished. Sometimes I make him listen to me and re-work the problems the way he's supposed to. Eventually it's done and we've made it through another day.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2010, October 12). Homework and the Mentally Ill Child (Part 2 of 3), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

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