How to Help Your Sibling with Homework

Three Parts:Preparing to Help with Your Sibling’s HomeworkWorking with Your Sibling on HomeworkLetting Your Sibling Learn for Themselves

We’ve all been there—a younger (or older) sibling is struggling with a school assignment and asks for help with their homework. While it can be flattering to be asked for help, and often fun to work on an assignment together with your sibling, sometimes it’s tough to know how best to help them with their homework. Finding the time to work together with your sibling can be difficult, but also rewarding. You can help your sibling with their homework by monitoring their efforts and helping them when they struggle, and also by making sure they stay focused and take breaks when needed.

Part 1
Preparing to Help with Your Sibling’s Homework

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    Find out what the exact assignment is. It’s important that you know the subject, material, and type of questions before you start helping. Your sibling may not have understood the assignment for themselves, or may be confused about how to follow the homework rules. If you help them understand the assignment, they may not need further help.
    • Which subject is your sibling working on? Are they writing an essay, or solving multiple-choice questions?
    • Look over a hard copy of your sibling’s assignment. If they’re confused, read over the assignment with them.
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    Ask your sibling what is causing them to struggle. Different people struggle with different types of work; see what’s causing your sibling to have a hard time with this particular assignment. Once you understand where your sibling’s confusion lies, you’ll be better able to help them with the homework, explain the concepts to them, and answer any questions that arise.[1] Ask your sibling questions like:
    • “What don’t you understand about the assignment?”
    • “What methods did the teacher ask you to use when you work on this homework?”
    • It may be the case that your sibling misunderstands a small point, and once you explain this to them, they will excel on the rest of their homework.
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    Help your sibling put together a homework schedule. Since nearly all students can plan on homework every night, it’s important that you help them find a homework schedule that works for them. This will help your sibling be more productive.[2]
    • Have your sibling schedule their homework for a single block of time, before dinner, and without TV or other distractions.
    • Don’t wear yourself out with helping your sibling. Try to avoid helping with their homework every day; limit yourself to two or three days a week.
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    Ask your sibling where they prefer to work. As odd as it may sound, different people work more productively in different settings. See where you sibling can work most effectively, and help with their homework there.[3]
    • For example, your sibling may prefer to work in the relative quiet of a bedroom or study room.
    • Alternately, they may prefer to work in the busy and stimulating atmosphere of a kitchen or dining room.
    • If your sibling is in high school or college, you could take them to a coffee shop or café and help them work there.

Part 2
Working with Your Sibling on Homework

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    Help your sibling when they struggle. Your sibling will need your help at points where they are confused or stuck, but they do not need to you to micro-manage every point of their homework. Assist them only when they struggle: [4]
    • Show your sibling the error they have made, and ask if they have ideas about how to fix it.
    • If your sibling does not understand a core concept of the assignment, explain it to them, but do not complete the homework for them.
    • Come up with a model or example of a problem similar to the one your sibling is struggling with, then ask them to think through the example you created and solve it.
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    Ask your sibling to try again if they’ve made a mistake. This will inevitably happen when you’re working with your sibling: they’ll make a mistake and complete their homework incorrectly. Before you criticize your sibling, or hand them the answer, ask them to try the problem again. This is a good study technique for them to remember; a second attempt will often yield a correct result. While you’re working with your sibling, say things to encourage their work. Try saying:
    • “You’re doing a great job; this is a tough subject to work on.”
    • “I’m proud of how much progress you’ve made so far.”
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    Create drawings and flash cards. If your sibling is in elementary school, this may help them understand a concept better and have fun while doing it. Flash cards will make homework portions smaller and easier, and aid in memorization.
    • Explain the topic to your sibling and ask them to create a drawing about the term described. This is especially useful in fields like math or science.
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    Show your sibling online instructional videos. If you struggle to explain a topic to your sibling, or think that your sibling would understand a concept better if it were explained via visual aid, don’t hesitate to show them a video online.
    • Youtube has a wealth of instructional videos. Start here, and branch out into other sites if Youtube does not have what you’re looking for.
    • This will work for siblings at any level—there are many useful instructional videos for high-school (or even college-) age students.
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    Explain the reasoning behind an answer. Especially if you are proficient with the work your sibling is struggling with, it can be tempting to simply give them the answer without explaining the thought process behind it.[5] However, this won’t help your sibling understand the homework for themselves.
    • Rather than simply handing out answers, explain the concept underlying your sibling’s homework, and see if they can work out for themselves how the problem should be solved.
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    Take a break when your sibling start to show fatigue. You don’t need to take a long break; just give your sibling some time to clear their head and think about something else for a few minutes. This will help them return to their homework with more focus.
    • Suppose your sibling has one hour of homework. Break for a maximum of 10 minutes after half an hour.
    • Eat a healthy snack. You may have fruits, juice, milk, or crackers in your break time. Have a light snack and start with your assignments again.

Part 3
Letting Your Sibling Learn for Themselves

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    Encourage your sibling to learn. Rather than training your sibling to write down the answers that you supply, let them do the mental work and figure out answers on their own. You will put your sibling at a disadvantage if you simply supply their answers, since they will not be able to complete any homework if you’re not there with them.
    • Ask your sibling to explain the answer of a problem. This will test if they understand the problem for themselves, or are just parroting your answer back to you.
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    Do not complete the assignment for your sibling. As tempting as it may be to simply do the work yourself, this defeats the purpose, as it does not allow your sibling to learn anything for themselves. You can guide your sibling towards the answers, but he or she should be doing the mental work.
    • For example, if there are three similar math problems, you could show your sibling how to solve the first one, and let them solve the second and third problems on their own.
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    Encourage your sibling’s work. Especially if your sibling is much younger than you, or struggling with work that may seem easy to you, it’s important that you encourage their work. Discouraging words from you may make your sibling feel stupid or hopeless.[6] Even if they make mistakes, stay positive while working with your sibling.
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    Point them to other resources. For better or worse, you will not always be available to help your sibling with their homework. In situations where they need help but you are not around, they need to be able to find other resources to help with confusing homework.[7] Show your sibling:
    • A local public library. This will have books and reference materials that can help your sibling learn more about any subject.
    • Useful websites. Don’t just stop at Wikipedia—there are many academic reference sites that you sibling can refer to. Focus on sites that end in .org or .gov—.com sites are commercially based and may provide biased information.
    • For younger children, show them where they can find school supplies such as pencil, paper, crayons, and markers in the home.


  • Finish with the difficult assignments first. Ask your sibling to do the easier work later on.
  • Do not ask your sibling to finish their homework right after they get home from school. Let them take a few minutes to rest, have a snack, etc.—then start the homework.
  • Make sure to leave yourself enough time to complete your own homework, if you’re still in school.

Article Info

Categories: Homework Skills | Siblings