Should you worry if your child doesn't want to go to school?

- The majority of children like going to school. They anticipate seeing their friends and teachers again and enjoy participating in school activities. School encompasses a large proportion of your child’s life so their excitement and eagerness is a welcomed sign to most parents. However, about 5 percent of children refuse to go to school or create reasons why they shouldn’t go. With the recent school violence, parents and teachers understand older children’s reluctance to return. But what about small children?

Most elementary age children aren’t exposed to school violence so their anxiety to return to school can be indicative of more severe problems. Parents should not ignore their child’s reluctance. Usually it involves an underlying anxiety, such as:

  • Getting along with other children, especially if they feel teased for the way they look or act
  • Fear of failure or test anxiety
  • Anxiety over having to go to the bathroom
  • School bullies
  • Feeling disliked by their teacher
  • An older sibling or friend told them about school shootings

Here are some solutions that can calm your child and encourage them to go back to school:

  1. Find an unhurried time to sit and listen to your child. When parents sit down and talk one-on-one with their child, they learn a lot. Your child may have fears and concerns that were held in for a long time. Give your child space to talk openly and help brainstorm solutions.
  2. If your child has a physical complaint, make plans to get them checked while encouraging them to go to school. Sometimes children feel inadequate in class because they cannot see or hear well. Making sure your child is physically well can improve their school performance and minimize anxiety.
  3. Talk to your child’s teachers and staff. When teachers know what is going on and what children fear, they’re able to help encourage and reassure your child while they’re at school.
  4. Establish a firm morning routine at home. Set a wake-up time, breakfast time, and transportation time and follow through. Parents who excuse sleeping in or skipping breakfast are setting their child up for failure and more school anxiety.
  5. If your child is afraid of past school violence or overhearing about school shootings, take it seriously. PTSD is a real thing with children, and it can happen vicariously when hearing about the event. A mental health professional may be necessary to help your child resolve anxieties.
  6. Make your child’s home life secure and stable. A child’s safety at school is largely generalized from feeling safe at home. A child should always know who is picking them up and at what time. Kids who suffer chaotic home lives have difficulty trusting, learning, and attending school. Make your child’s education a priority.

It’s important for your child’s emotional health to be able to return to school and participate in school activities. Parents can make all the difference when they listen to their child’s anxieties and establish a plan that makes the child feel safe, supported, and secure.

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