Holiday Homework

Dear Dr. Linda,

Last year my kids had so much homework over the holiday break, it basically ruined the holidays for us. We go to my mom’s in Vermont, and all I can remember is my daughter being stressed out because she wanted to be with her cousins. Instead she shut herself up in a room upstairs to write her English paper, do her biology labs and whatever else she had to do before going back to school. Our other daughter had forgotten her binder at home and spent the whole time panicked that she would not have enough time to finish everything when she got home. She pestered me the whole time to leave so she could get home to do her homework. As I watched my brother’s kids playing games, sledding and giggling, I felt horrible that my two girls weren’t doing the same. My husband kept telling me and the girls to forget about the homework and enjoy ourselves, but the three of us spent Christmas and the rest of the time tied up in knots. Do you have any suggestions for a better holiday? Claudia

Dear Claudia,

I don’t know your brother’s kids’ ages, but it sounds like they might be younger than your two girls. High school kids usually get homework over the winter break. Serious students like your girls take homework seriously. If they have assignments over the vacation, those assignments are going to interfere with relaxing and having fun.

Homework can get in the way when families plan to spend the winter break vacationing, visiting and celebrating with friends and family. It’s a time to get away from your everyday responsibilities, change the scenery, relax and enjoy yourself. Having to do homework goes against the reasons for celebrations and vacations. 

Some teachers don’t give assignments over vacation time and if they do, it’s usually minimum in order not to ruin the vacation for students and their families. If your daughters get homework, help them set up a time when you’re home so they can do it without having to take homework with them. When adults take work with them on a vacation, they’re considered workaholics. Yet, if kids have homework, most adults tell them that it’s their responsibility to do their homework. 

Sometimes too much homework over a vacation isn’t because the teacher assigned it to be done then. It’s a time management problem or an over-achievement issue. Are the girls doing homework that could have been finished before the vacation started? Are they taking too many classes, especially too many AP classes? Or do they feel pressure or expectations to get an A+ on every assignment and in every class?  In other words, are they too concerned about homework? If it seems that too much homework is being given for the winter break, talk to the girls’ teachers. Tell them it’s too much given all the other activities over the holidays. 

If doing homework before or after visiting grandma can’t be worked out, make some time they can get their homework done without missing special activities. Usually, a school vacation is a week and a half to two weeks long. That should be enough time to get homework done and have fun over the winter break. Even though we want our children to succeed in school, we also want them to be socially and emotionally healthy. Mental health and physical health too depend on a balance between work, fun activities with family and friends, and relaxation. 

Have fun at Grandma’s and to the rest of you…

Have a happy and healthy holiday season! See you in 2023!

Dr. Linda

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