The term “school stress” can refer to any number of things causing worry for our children and therefore, ourselves. We’re going to explore in more depth different aspects of school stressors and hopefully give you some insight into how you could move forward in a positive way.
“School refusal” describes a child’s reluctance to go to school. This can happen at any stage in their educational journey. Research has found that it’s typically associated with major changes, such as:
- Transitions from primary to secondary school
- Academic struggles
- Friendship difficulties
- Problems at home, such as a relationship breakdown, death in the family, or the illness of a loved one
Whatever the reason for school refusal, it’s extremely stressful for everyone concerned.
How to deal with school refusal
As parents, we understand the importance of going to school. We also realize that long-term absences can lead to our children falling behind in their learning. Identifying early the existence of a problem is crucial, as is engaging all the stakeholders in your child’s education. You do need support because you should demonstrate to your child that everyone wants the very best for them and is working hard to ensure that it happens.
It’s essential to listen to your child’s concerns
The reason they’re refusing to go to school may seem insignificant to you, but it’s causing them to worry. Listen to them and assure them that it can be sorted out and communicate with the right people who need to understand the worry triggers, such as the teacher.
Being consistent with your child is crucial, as is being firm
A clean goodbye and a safe adult meeting the child can go a long way to alleviate separation issues. Make sure your child also knows that a plan is in place if they struggle during the day, such as having a safe space or a friend around. In this way, they’ll understand there is a process they will need to work through before you are called.
It’s important to coordinate these plans with the school, identifying triggers and what the institution can do to help your child settle and return to the learning space.
How we talk to our children about going to school can set positive expectations
Instead of saying, “If you go to school tomorrow ….,” use language like, “Tomorrow at school….” Removing the “if” eliminates the option of not going to school.
If you’re having one (or a few) of those days when getting to school is impossible, remove all the rewards associated with staying home, such as devices, television, snacks, games, and your attention. This is really tough, I know, because let’s face it: you have stuff to do, and the temptation to keep them quiet is strong.
School refusal is really hard on parents, and until people walk in your shoes, they just don’t get it. If you have a friend whose child is refusing school or know another child in your kid’s class who is experiencing this, please don’t judge the parents. They are struggling, their hearts are breaking, and like you, they want the very best for their child. Be gentle, kind, and supportive.