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Tears, Tantrums & School Phobia

Do these words sound familiar?
"Mummy, I don't feel good."
"I don't want to go to school."
"Why do I have to go?"

The unwillingness of the child to attend the school is invariably due to emotional distress. Children with school refusal, however, feel actual anxiety or fear towards school. It commonly occurs in children aged five to eleven.

  • Severe emotional distress - It may include anxiety, temper, tantrums, depression, stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or headaches in the morning. These improve if the child is allowed to stay home.
  • The child often tries to persuade parents to allow him or her to stay home.
  • The child is willing to do school work and complies with completing work at home.

  • Preparing your child for what to expect.
  • Make it sound like fun and excitement without compromising on the reality.
  • Share your own experiences - kids love to hear those.
  • Start your prepping in advance- perhaps a week before school actually begins.
  • Ensure that the child is well rested and well fed before school day.

  • Don't be over-sceptical and dismiss what could be a legitimate medical cause, but do observe if your child is symptom free on holidays and after coming back from school.
  • Establish if your child is trying to avoid a bully at school.
  • Your child may need a crash course in assertiveness skills - not a day off from school.
  • Your child may lack enough friends, without whom school can be a distressing place. If so, help your child to network - throw a brunch for a few classmates who live close by, and enroll your child in some extra- curricular activity she enjoys with her classmates.
  • Your child may feel overwhelmed by a surfeit of demands. School work often gets taxing after class three. Provide a few Time Management tips and some syllabus support, and also investigate the possibility of a learning disability that requires special attention.

  • Make it clear to your child that you love him, but also be clear on what you expect of him.
  • Do not let your child enjoy a school day at home with television and leisure activities- try to get her to do school work.
  • Don't linger over good byes - keep them short and matter-of-fact. If your child is physically clinging to you, ask the teacher to meet you at the door for few day to guide her into the room. Don't hang around. Once you have dropped off your child, leave.
  • Time the drop-off to reduce stress-for example, just before the assembly bell, or with the arrival of some of your child's friends. A car pool may be another option.
  • Ease separation angst by letting your child take a little piece of 'home' along to school- a note from you tucked in the pocket, a laminated family photo in the backpack, or a hand drawn picture of the clock showing what time you will come back and pick her up.

Parents should avoid displaying negative emotions towards school refusal. Most children eventually work through their fears. Meanwhile, here is a short mantra for you:
  • Stay calm
  • Be prepared for set backs.
  • Listen proactively to your child.
  • Do not argue or raise your voice.
  • Tell your child often that you love him.
  • Consistently emphasize that all children must go to school- and then take them to school.

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