When Your Child Has Anxiety About Going to School
Ways to Make Going to School Easier for Your Child
If your child is struggling with going to school, try these simple strategies or consult the article School Refusal: Kids Who Don’t Want to Go to School at About.com as a further resource:
- Make sure your child gets a good night sleep
- Give your child a security blanket, toy, or picture of you to bring to school for comfort
- Speak with the teacher so she may support your child throughout the day
- Make sure your child is up and ready to go in the morning, with all homework done
- Give your child a good breakfast
- Don’t give in to crying or feigned illness
- Teach your child relaxation techniques
- Allow your child to check in with you during the day if need be
How to Foster a Good Relationship With Your Child's Teacher
Some Common Causes of School-Related Anxieties
- Separation anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Developmental delays
- Learning disabilities
- Bullying issue
- Health issues
- Childhood depression
- Family issues affecting learning
- Problems interacting with a classmate or someone at school
- Fear of the bus
Navigating Through The Elementary Years With Your Child's Individual Needs in Mind
If you have a child that is finding the adjustment to elementary school, or the progression through school, difficult, you are not alone. For some children, and parents as well, embarking on this journey and phase of a more social and academic life, is scary and may often require the application of love and coaxing, and sometimes even a little toughness. Some kids go running for that bus on day one, but others, such as my youngest, cling to their mothers with all the howling and fierceness of someone going off to battle. As a parent, although this may be difficult, it is important to remember that in any educational story, there will be bumps along the road. But you have the power to advocate for your child, pay attention to their needs and make choices for them and be their voice when they need it; and most likely, there will be times when they will. Here are some tips on how to navigate this elementary stage of parenthood, and when to know if it is time to seek help for school related anxieties.
Embrace the Journey
As I walked my 3rd grader into school on the first day this year (yes, he still can’t face the bus at times), I passed the drop-off kindergartners and their parents, standing outside the doors as they waited for them to open. It almost brought me to tears as I heard the gasps and sniffles and saw the wet eyes and fear – in both parents’ and children’s eyes, as they clung to each other, arms around necks. “This was just me”, I thought and truly, sometimes still is. But, now the wiser for the experience of years and children, I know giving your children up to school is good for kids, no matter what their individual struggles will be, and even when they don’t believe it. In times where going to school is still difficult for them, you’ll be there with them to hold their hands along the way. It may sometimes feel like unchartered territory as you learn more about your child and their individual needs during this journey, but know there are so many resources available to parents online, through the school, and in the form of medical professionals for you to take advantage of, especially in regard to childhood school-related anxieties. If this is one of your child’s primary years, and his anxieties seem mild, be comforted by the likelihood that he or she will soon grow out of fears about going to school. In the interim, the article When Your Child Refuses to Go to School: Dealing with School Refusal at About.com can offer you some tips on how to potentially improve the situation in the short-term (as detailed in the sidebar to the right). If however, you suspect there are deeper issues than simple separation anxiety as your child progresses through primary grades, the reasons why need to be uncovered and appropriately addressed for their own good and their ultimate success.
Know Your Child and Advocate for Them
The elementary years for children are quite critical years in their lives. Things that occur within this time frame set the scene for their worldview, ideas about themselves, their abilities, education and striving toward success for years to come, as suggested in the Princeton University abstract, The Development of Children Ages 6-14. We, as parents and members of this speed-of-light world, all have extremely busy lives, and when you add to this our jobs as well, it can only get unimaginably busier. However, it is critical to give your child’s interactions at school apt attention, so that if any important problems do exist or arise during their progressions, you can catch them and address them if need be with the appropriate plan of action. If your child is experiencing difficulty with going to school, from crying at go-time to struggles with learning to over-stimulation, to physical, cognitive and developmental problems, to social anxieties, being there to help your child deal with these is truly a critical function of your role as their primary caretaker and guide in life. All of these mentioned are common problems among young children today and some of them, just need time. But others, require action and you as parent are the one that needs to make the call toward seeking help when it becomes a necessity. Remember that as one of the people in the world who knows your child best, you as parent, are also the most qualified to make that distinction.
Talk to Teachers and Ask for Help When You Need It
Your single greatest resource in engaging in your child’s educational and developmental process is your relationship with teachers. Instead of making them your adversary, try very hard to nurture a good working relationship with them toward providing your child with what they need to learn and thrive. Listen to the feedback your child’s teacher gives you. In this article, at The National Center for Children with Learning Disabilities’ website, Tips to Build a Good Relationship with Your Child’s Teachers, read up on some tips on how to foster a good relationship with your child’s teacher and refer as well to the video to the upper right. Discuss your child’s apprehensions about school with his or her teachers. Often, teachers can provide that insight for you to determine if your child’s anxieties about school are related to academics, emotional problems, or social problems or if they could possibly even be related to some kind of physical malady. See if they can offer you some clarity surrounding occurrences within the classroom. If you need to seek further assistance from other special resources within your school district, such as speech pathologists, school psychologists, or special service professionals for learning disabled children to make your children a little more comfortable in their school environment, do it. Don’t be afraid of uncovering a special need in your child. Getting them the proper help if they struggle in any area is always a good thing, when truly warranted. Remember that their overall health and attitude toward school is to a great degree, in your hands.
Seek Medical Attention When Necessary
Know that your pediatrician can be a first line of defense for your child as you embark on their educational journey and the process of growing up healthfully. Discuss any problems your child is having with your pediatrician, from anxiety, to potential learning disabilities to the existence of allergies, to potential physical abnormalities. Your doctor can offer you good advice and referrals for further help if any small issues warrant further preventative, diagnostic, or therapeutic treatment. If your child has extreme anxiety when it comes to school or if your child is dealing with any mentally challenging difficulties at home, do not be afraid to seek further professional interventions; they can remain as confidential as you or your child wishes. Screening for the diagnosis of cognitive or emotional difficulties are available in schools and more comprehensively if needed, at a number of healthcare facilities, which can provide unlimited resources in services such as these, described on the Psychology Department page for esteemed healthcare provider, Boomerang Health, for example. No problem is too small to warrant further investigation if your child is showing signs of suffering or delay, academically or developmentally. Larger problems, if the warning signs are there, will not go away by ignoring them and left unattended, can cause more serious difficulties for your child, later on.
Don’t Overreact, But Don’t Underreact Either, When Problems Arise
Kids will be kids and it is important not to overreact or jump to conclusions when a child hits a bump in the road. Watchful waiting is a good strategy in the early grades because as previously stated, many difficulties resolve with age. However, if you suspect that your child has an issue that does require further attention at some point, or if your child’s teacher is urging you to investigate issues like anxiety, or attention deficit or behavioral or learning problems, remember that there is the potential that a larger problem may exist that needs to be treated from mental disorders, to trouble with bullying (as in the article A Bullying Story: Why I Don’t Let My Kids Ride the Bus at Empoweringkids.com), to child molestation, to maladjustment to learning disabilities that can be and should be, met with action. As previously pinioned, only you can truly know at what point further investigations need to be effected.
Monitor Warning Signs That Could Point to Larger Issues
It is important to always keep in mind that a child’s refusal to go to school or anxiety about going to school well may be a sign that something is going on there that is making them feel unsafe or unsure. The following are signs you will want to stay aware of and often relate to child school refusal issues, as they sometimes can indicate the existence of a problem that needs to be addressed like depression, underlying physical problems, learning problems or even mental disorders or can simply just point to your child being teased. If your child is displaying the following symptoms as evidenced in School Refusal: Kids Who Don’t Want to Go to School at About.com on a regular basis, you may need to consult your doctor to rule out serious concerns, or to begin the process of dealing with them in a positive way.
•Crying and temper tantrums
•headaches and dizziness
Look to the Future
From Nick’s kindergarten meltdowns, to Mrs. Guido,’s shocked reaction at the throaty gasps and hysteria coming out of my son’s throat on the day he lost his nerve in first grade, to the hoarding garbage in the backpack phase of second grade which his teacher found disturbing, to my son’s need for an EpiPen for life threatening allergies, to his oft-feigning of illness this year so far, I have been through a lot of stumbling blocks. But through good faith and the sincere intent to always do the right thing, a true commitment to being there through it all, and a working relationship with the people that help you along the way, your child will not only survive but will become who they are meant to be in this world, through all of their experiences in school and life. And you, will earn the pleasures of parenthood lived and some points for heaven (and maybe some gray hairs) along the way.
4 Main Reasons a Child May Be Refusing to Go to School
The NYU Child Study Center in the article Understanding School Refusal identifies four main reasons children refuse to go to school. Your child may be refusing to go to school:
- To get away from feeling bad. He is trying to avoid something at school that causes anxiety, depression or other feelings of distress.
- To avoid social interactions or public evaluation. He has anxiety in social situations, trouble with peer interactions or is worried about how he'll do in testing situations and/or about being called on in class.
- To get attention. Her tantrums, clinginess and separation anxiety may be a way to get attention she desires.
- To get some sort of reward outside of school. This can be as simple as being able to watch TV or play video games while at home.
Warning Signs for Childhood Depression or Anxiety
If you suspect your child may be suffering from childhood anxiety or depression, Is Your Child Depressed on WebMD may be a good resource for further information. Common signs and symptoms to look for are:
- Irritability or anger
- Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness
- Social withdrawal
- Increased sensitivity to rejection
- Changes in appetite -- either increased or decreased
- Changes in sleep -- sleeplessness or excessive sleep
- Vocal outbursts or crying
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and low energy
- Reduced ability to function during events and activities at home or with friends, in school, extracurricular activities, and in other hobbies or interests
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Learning Disabilities Resources
If you think your child may be suffering from a learning disability, refer to the following websites for further information and talk to his or her teacher and your pediatrician for advice on what to do next.