The start of a new school year is exciting, but it can also be a little scary for some children. Children resisting to go to school is a common problem for many parents. Sometimes your child’s refusal to go to school can be a sign of a deeper problem.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, school avoidance syndrome is one of the most common causes of vague and unverifiable symptoms like a stomach ache or a headache. Other symptoms can include tantrums, inflexibility, separation anxiety, and defiance. Anxiety-based school refusal affects two to five percent of school-age children; most commonly between the ages of five and six, and ages 10 and 11.
Rebecca Honeycutt, licensed clinical psychotherapist at Ascension Via Chrsiti Behavioral Health in Pittsburg, says the first step in managing school avoidance is having your child checked by their primary care provider or pediatrician so that actual physical problems can be ruled out. Vision and hearing problems, for example, may cause high levels of anxiety in children.
It’s also important to remain calm and ask the child what’s happening at school. The following situations are common triggers for school avoidance:
- Fear of failure
- Teasing by other children, such as being called "ugly" or "fat"
- Anxiety over using a public bathroom
- Threats of physical harm from a school bully
- Actual physical harm
- Major changes at home, such as a divorce, death of a family member or pet, moving to a new home
If school avoidance lasts for more than one week, you should seek the help of your child’s doctor and enlist the help from school staff; including the teacher, principal, school nurse and guidance counselor, for extra support and direction. The longer your child stays at home, the more difficult it will be for him or her to go back to school.
School avoidance is difficult for both the child and the parent. However, quick, supportive action by the parent and the appropriate use of health and school professionals can make the issue manageable.
If you would like to speak to a behavioral health provider about this topic, contact: