When A Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School
With school starting up, many kids are excited to get back. They want to catch up with friends they haven't seen and get back into routine. But for many children, school is not a fun place and can even be scary. This can be highly frustrating and challenging for a parent.
It often starts out with a complaint of a headache or upset stomach. A missed day here and there, and before you know, it grades are slipping. Now they are either flat out refusing to go to school, or the physical complaints have gotten worse. Now it becomes a vicious cycle, they are even more stressed about school because they are behind and not doing well.
What should a parent do?
Try to find out why your child doesn't want to go. This can be hard for a parent because children are not very good at directly telling you what the problem is. Here are some ideas to consider.
1. If your child is complaining of something that is physical, a good place to start would be with your pediatrician. Not all kids make up tummy aches. If you can rule out illnesses then you can start to look at other issues.
2. Make sure that you child is safe at school. Is he or she being bullied or intimidated by anyone? It is sure hard to remember spelling when you are afraid of the kid sitting behind you, or you are worried about how to avoid the bully on the bus. Is there any way to make your child feel safer? Contact your child's teacher to make a plan.
3. Check their ability to complete work in school. Is your child struggling to understand assignments? Does he or she need extra help with certain subjects? Are there other issues that may be interfering with your child's academic ability? Do you suspect that your child may have a learning disability? If you don't think that your child's educational needs are being met, request from his teacher, school counselor, and/or principal to have a SAT (Student Assistant Team) meeting to see if he meets eligibility for an Individualized Education Plan.
Some children who have ADHD or depression may have difficulty concentrating. Some children have severe anxiety that interferes with their ability to take tests or complete work. If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from some emotional problems, you may want to have him evaluated by a Psychiatrist. Some children may benefit from seeing a therapist or may even need some medications that may calm their anxieties and fears. Don't be afraid to discuss your concerns with your child's teachers.
4. Is your child having problems with her peers? Often, children make mistakes with their friends and lack the problem solving ability to fix it. Help them to identify ways to improve relationships with friends.
5. Don’t underestimate stressors at home. Evaluate the overall stress level of the family. A child may not want to be at school when they are overcome with worry about issues going on in the family. If your child is not coping well with issues such as a divorce, or a death in the family, you may want to seek help from a therapist or psychiatrist.
In most situations, a child’s fears and anxieties about school can be resolved with the right amount of support and encouragement. Helping your child to identify problems early can help them be more successful at school.
Susie Finan, LCSW, Therapist at Mercy-Behavioral Health Child/Adolscent Partial Program
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