Almost every parent has heard “I don’t want to go to school!” accompanied by sudden complaints about a body part hurting, or feeling sick. If you let your child stay home, these symptoms disappear like magic. This is a normal, if annoying situation if it only happens occasionally, but it becomes a regular issue, this may be a sign of a deeper anxiety. Luckily, there are several ways you can help your kids handle anxiety related to school.
The first step, and a good idea in general, is to listen. Acknowledge what your child is feeling so they’ll know it’s always okay to come talk to you. Be careful that you don’t dismiss a concern (“No need to worry. “You’ll be fine!”) or ask questions suggesting you’re anticipating that your child will be anxious (“Are you worried about going back to school?”). Remember that sometimes kids don’t expect you to fix a problem. They just want to feel listened to about whatever’s bothering them. In this case, all you need to do is validate their feelings (“I know this is hard”) and let them know you’re confident they can handle the situation themselves.
Once you know what’s going on, you and your child can work together on a plan. Ask “Is there anything in particular that’s worrying you?” “How can we make things easier? “Is there anyone else, like a friend or other family you’d like to talk to about this?” Make it clear that, while you’ll do everything you can to offer support, ultimately your child’s job is to go to school, and staying home is not an option.
There might be something that’s happened recently that could be contributing to the anxiety, such as an illness or death in the family, or a fight with a friend. Anxiety is also often the result of not enough sleep or improper eating.
Finding solutions can give children the confidence to deal with worries about stressful situations, and feeling in control will make your child feel more independent. Most children are extremely resilient and will be just fine once they get through an adjustment period.
As the most important role model for your child, don’t forget to lead by example when it comes to self-care. If you’re feeling exhausted or upset yourself, you might be inadvertently giving off an anxious vibe. Small things that create a brief transition, like a few deep breaths or getting a drink of water can be very helpful. Encourage your kids to join you in healthy coping activities, like getting a drink of water, going for a walk, or blowing bubbles, which usually makes everyone, no matter how young or old, feel better.
Some worry is natural after any transition — especially these days when children are being asked to do many new things all at once. But if your child refuses to go to school on a regular basis or has problems staying in school, school anxiety (also known as school refusal) may be the cause.
Often a symptom of a deeper problem, anxiety-based school refusal affects 2 to 5% of children aged 5 – 6, and/or 10-11, usually at times of stressful transition, such as a move or a new school. Children who suffer from school refusal tend to have average or above-average intelligence. But if their fears keep them away from school and friends for any length of time, counseling is a helpful solution.
At the Strelitz International Academy, we understand that school can be stressful for students. All students participate in recess daily and take brain breaks in class in between subjects. SIA school counselors are available to meet with students when they need an outlet to talk. In addition, we have a partnership with Jewish Family Service for students and families who need further resources.
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Strelitz International Academy is one of the best private schools in southeastern Virginia. All of the instructors in our IB® Primary Years Programme (PYP), make compassionate instruction a priority. We believe your child will flourish in our environment, thanks to smaller class sizes, a unique curriculum, and exemplary teachers, staff, and administrators. Our goal is to put your child on the path to a lifelong love of learning and educational excellence.