Homework can be a flashpoint in many families and most parents will find themselves involved in difficult conversations about homework at some point during their child’s education. 

Homework can be even more challenging if a child has special educational needs, difficulties with executive function or arrives home simply exhausted from their day and cannot do any more.


Establishing some routines around homework can help to smooth the way. For instance: 

  • Try to do homework at the same time each day. This does not have to be straight after school, but it’s usually better to do it earlier rather than later. If afternoons and evenings aren’t working and your child is an early riser, try doing homework in the mornings. 
  • Try to do homework in the same place each day. Establish a routine around where homework will be completed and prioritise the availability of that space during study time.
  • Organise the equipment and stationery that might be needed. If there’s no permanent workspace, place items such as pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, gluesticks, a calculator, etc. in a small box which can be easily used and then stored away.
  • Place a box somewhere near the front door for all the equipment that needs to go to school the next day – bags, lunchboxes, PE kits, etc. – and ensure that completed homework is put in there as soon as it is finished.


Even with a good routine, homework can still feel like an insurmountable challenge. We spoke to a group of adoptive parents who have faced homework struggles in different ways, and these are some of their top tips: 


  1. The school may be able to nominate a key adult who can check in with your child at the beginning and end of every day to make sure they have what they need. At home, try using a planner or calendar to keep track of deadlines and assignments and have extra equipment available where possible.
  2. If homework takes a very long time because your child works more slowly than their peers, ask for the teacher’s advice about how long each task is intended to take, spend that amount of time on it and then stop, even if the task is not complete. Praise your child for their efforts and reassure them you will make sure their teacher understands they did their best. It may be possible to negotiate reduced homework demands if this is a frequent issue.
  3. Children who work more slowly are disadvantaged by homework tasks that involve completing work not carried out during class time. If your child frequently brings home tasks to ‘finish off’ try approaching the school to ask what extra support your child can receive during lesson time instead.
  4. Parents offering a high level of support in the beginning can help children to make progress and grow in confidence so the support can be reduced over time. However, if you consistently find that your child cannot complete their homework without a lot of help then speak to the school about whether the level of task setting is appropriate. As a rule of thumb, older children (upper primary and secondary) should be able to complete homework independently with roughly 70% accuracy.
  5. If your child is becoming upset or angry, try switching tasks, rather than giving up altogether, or taking a break for a snack or a sensory activity. It may be possible to come back to it later. A crying or dysregulated child isn’t going to learn effectively, even if they are sitting at their books.
  6. If outright refusal to complete homework is a problem, it’s time to get curious. Maybe your child is tired, or feels they don’t understand the task, or is worried about failing. Try to stay calm and suggest coming back to it later. Contact the child’s teacher and explain what happened. It may be possible to ask for extra help or a deadline extension. 
  7. Consider taking advantage of any homework clubs that the school offers. If your child finds school stressful, then homework is simply bringing all that stress into the home each day, negatively affecting your relationship. Many families find it better for everybody if schoolwork is kept separate from home life.
  8. Ask about homework policies when choosing your child’s school. What are the consequences for missed or incomplete homework? What reasonable adjustments can be made to support your child? Rigid, inflexible policies are likely to become a sticking point later if homework becomes a problem. For example, frequent detentions for missing homework will mean that your child arrives home even more tired and with even less time to complete that evening’s work, creating a vicious circle.
  9. If your child has special or additional educational needs, it may be possible to have reduced homework demands written into their education plan.


Adoptive families need to prioritise family relationships and maintain the home as a safe place for children who have experienced trauma. Homework is important, but it is not more important than the mental health of you and your child. If battles over homework are threatening the quality of your family life, then contact your child’s teachers without delay and ask how the school can work with you to help your child. 

By Rebecca Brooks, AUK Education Policy Adviser