How to Help Your Child With Unfamiliar Subjects

by Sarah Adams

Multiplication skills a bit rusty? Still wrestling with the difference between "there," "their," and "they're?" While kids may think adults know everything, the fact is that we don't. So how do you help your child when his coursework is outside your area of expertise?

Work With Them, Not Against Them

Think back to a time when you didn't understand a particular concept or piece of information. What helped you get through it? In many cases, it's a matter of reviewing the subject matter until something clicks. For example, if your child is grappling with a particularly challenging maths problem, ask him to share an example with you -- perhaps one explained in in detail in a textbook or completed by the teacher in class? Reviewing a finished example can prompt your child recall any related tools or instructions for getting the work done. This process can also help parents get a better grasp on the material.

Ask For Help

The internet is every parent's' best friend when it comes to helping kids with challenging subjects. Many websites offer guidance on a variety of topics with teaching tools designed to walk you through challenging concepts step by step. Or simply search a particular problem to see what solutions pop up. While copying someone else's work accomplishes nothing, reviewing the work process can reinforce academic concepts. One thing not to do? Fake your way through it. Pretending to understand material will only lead to confusion. Instead, email the teacher for clarification and/or extra resources. Before jumping into help your child with his homework, however, consider this: recent research not only shows that there's no link between parent participation and improved academic performance, but that the process can actually result in lower grades -- particularly in cases where parents don't understand the material.

Another Approach

When all else fails...try a tutor! According to parenting resource, spending more than 10 or 20 minutes on a particular concept with no resolution can lead to diminishing returns. Knowing when to throw in the towel and seek professional help offers relief for frustrated kids and parents alike. Homework woes can take over your household yielding tearful nights and stressful mornings. Hiring a tutor can help you head off these conflicts and start seeing results. Tutors not only have a foundational understanding of the subjects they teach, but are also trained in how to best communicate this information. Keep in mind that as your child progresses through school, the coursework will only get harder. Hiring a tutor helps ensure that he/she will stay out in front of the curve.Ultimately, there's only one thing worse than struggling with a challenging subject. Struggling with a challenging subject while your mum or dad harps on you about it. Let your child know that you understand that the work is difficult, and that you are proud of his/her efforts to tackle challenging material. Maintaining a can-do attitude -- even when you are annoyed, exhausted or overworked -- can help turn the situation from a potentially negative experience into a positive one.