Good study habits

Aug 1, 2013 at 3:00 a.m. ET

As the school year revs up again, parents have the difficult task of helping kids transition from summer mode to school mode. Check out these tips to help your kids establish good study habits and get the most out of this school year.

Mother reading with daughter


Establish expectations

Before the school year begins, sit down with your kids to discuss what you expect of them in the coming year. Will they study for a designated time every day after school, or will they be able to allocate homework time by themselves? For children in middle school and high school, ask them what academic goals they hope to achieve this year. Clarifying long-term objectives and knowing each other's expectations before the start of school will keep you and your kids on the same page.


Keep it consistent

To build up concentration skills and develop good study habits, children should do a little bit of work every day. How long they should work depends on their age. Dr. Rita Eichenstein, a pediatric neuropsychologist who specializes in the assessment of school-age children and in parent-training skills, recommends that study time be limited to 5–10 minutes per day in kindergarten and that 10 minutes per day be added to study time each year thereafter. Teaching your child how to work regularly will prevent cramming and alleviate the stress of last-minute studying.


Work with the teacher

When developing your child's study habits, teachers can be invaluable resources.

"Ask the teacher at the beginning of the year how long the child is expected to work at their homework per night... [and] if they want the assignment completed or if they want the child to stop working when he or she reaches that time," says Dr. Eichenstein.

The teacher should be able to give you a better idea of what your child's after-school workload should be from the get-go.


Find the right place

When it comes to creating your children's study space, what matters most is that it be comfortable, distraction-free and conducive to concentration. Is your kitchen next to the family room where you can hear the television or talking? If so, consider moving your children to another room or making a no-TV rule. If your children are easily distracted when left alone, perhaps have them do their homework in a place where you can monitor them rather than having them do their homework alone in their room. Wherever it is, keep it consistent and technology-free. Television, computer time and video games should be rewards enjoyed after homework, not before or during.


Break it up

When your children arrive home from school, give them time to have a snack and relax before tackling their homework. Encouraging them to take physical breaks before starting their work and for five minutes at a time while studying will help to keep up their concentration and endurance. They can stretch, run around or play with the pet — anything to help unwind their mind and body.


Model the way

Consider doing your own work next to your child while sitting quietly at the table.

"Children learn by imitation," says Dr. Eichenstein. "Sometimes parents are good 'anchors ' — their presence is a stabilizing center for the child to help them study."

Show your child how you plan out your week on your calendar, and if age appropriate, give your child a kid-friendly calendar to plan his or her own week.

More on your child's study habits

Is your kid falling behind already?
Keep your school children organized
Kids and TV: How much is too much?