Even the most independent of children can become grumpy or defiant when faced with going to school for the first time, or returning after a long holiday. Some kids may even complain of stomachaches, cling to your knee, or cry at the prospect, regressing to those terrible tantrums of their toddler years.
If your child is expressing strong feelings that she doesn’t want to go to school, check out these tips.
Listen To Your Child
First-day-of-school and back-to-school jitters are perfectly normal reactions to a change in daily life. It’s a rare child who doesn’t experience them at some point during their developmental drive toward independence. However, children may become anxious for different reasons, so the first step toward helping them begins with empathic listening.
It’ll take patience and time to encourage your child to talk about what is at the root of their worries. They may not want to admit that there’s a mean kid at school, but if an outside situation like bullying is the cause for their reluctance to go to school, it should be addressed as promptly as possible by checking in with the teacher and/or school counselor.
Drill Down To The Details
Children might refuse to go to school for any number of reasons. It’s important to acknowledge their fear and then offer ways to help.
If there’s a new baby in the house, they may be jealous that their sibling will be the focus of all your attention while they’re away. Reassure them of your love, and set aside a special time to give them your undivided attention.
If a child is entering a new classroom, they may be worried about whether they can make friends. Role play several social situations so they can practice introducing themselves and initiating friendship.
Others may worry that they won’t be able to keep up with the academic work. Setting up a study schedule or getting a jump on classroom reading can help a child concerned about academic stresses.
Keep To The Routine
Though your child may wake up every morning determined to avoid school attendance, it’s important to hold fast to the routine. An attitude of calm, patience, and affection can go a long way in assuaging their fears and getting them out the door. If the child is legitimately sick, make sure the sick day doesn’t turn into an extended play-day, giving them another reason to want to stay home.
Some children may experience crippling anxiety that extends into sleepless nights, nightmares, bed wetting, an intense fear of being alone, and an absolute refusal to go to school. If the worries don’t ebb with time, you may want to speak with a mental health professional experienced in the special care of young children.