Many kids look forward to going to school, however, it’s normal for them to have days when they don’t want to go. It’s important to identify the problem correctly and look at your child’s situation closely. Is it the workload, peer pressure, teacher issues or a social problem? For most kids it will be that they associate school with negative thoughts or unhappy experiences that trigger uncertainty or anxiety. From the tough-love approach to doing a bit of detective work, here’s what to do if your child doesn’t want to go to school.
Check for Physical Causes
In addition to having temper tantrums and crying when it is time to go to school, your child may tell you they feel unwell and complain about having the following symptoms:
- Stomach aches
- Chest/Joint Pain
It’s important to check these symptoms out in more detail, as sometimes they’re exaggerated with the anxiety of having to go to school. Check their temperature and visit your family doctor for a quick check-up if you are concerned. Often in situations where you think there’s actually something going on at school, it's unlikely that anything is physically wrong with your child. However, it’s better to check it out rather than assume.
Don’t Make Staying At Home Appealing
Let your child know that if they’re truly ill, they will need to see a doctor, stay in bed and rest, keep the TV off and not use any other technology. Even though this may sound harsh, you don’t want staying at home to sound appealing, especially if you suspect there’s something going on at school they are avoiding. You want to break the cycle as soon as possible and instead try to uncover why your child is having negative associations with going to school, rather than encouraging them to take time off.
Talk It Through
If your child is making it clear that they really don’t want to go to school, it’s crucial you talk about what’s bothering them. It’s possible that something specific is happening, such as bullying or a difficult class. However, rather than jumping in and asking questions like “Who’s bullying you?”, try and ask some open questions and play detective. Ask them what their life is like at school, who their friends are, what classes they like best and what they’re finding difficult. Often kids find it hard to describe the problem, so asking questions and carefully listening to their responses for clues should help you discover the real issues. Once you start to understand the problem, you should make sure you reassure your child that together you can conquer the issues and you’ll be there to help them through it. Just knowing they have support will instantly make things better.
If you do think your child is being bullied, read this helpful blog post all about teaching kids how to tackle bullying.
Stay Supportive and Avoid Lecturing
It’s important to avoid lengthy discussions with your child about how important it is to go to school. In fact, this won’t make them feel any better, and may make matters worse. Instead, even though it's upsetting to see your child distressed about going to school, try to remain calm and supportive, but ultimately firm. Remember, your child needs to go to school – this is where children learn and grow, not only intellectually but also socially and emotionally.
Speak To The School
If you discover that your child is having specific concerns at school with their peers, a difficult class or are clashing with a member of school staff, it’s crucial you meet with their teachers or head of year to work on tackling the problem. Not only does this send the message to the school that you’re committed to working on the issues, it’s a great opportunity to try and come up with an action plan that will make school life easier for your child. Whether this is organising them to have a one-on-one chat with the teacher they’re clashing with or looking into additional after-school study sessions in the subject they’re struggling with, it’s a start.
By following the above suggestions, there's every reason to believe that your child will overcome their school anxiety and realise their ability to stay strong and work through a tough situation.