Back to school anxiety is a normal and common worry for many children. After spring or summer break ends,
many children will experience first day jitters. Sometimes their anxiety will be about starting a new grade, having a new
teacher, or making new friends, but sometimes it's not so easily explained. Some children experience so much emotional distress that makes going to school daily a challenge. This is called “school refusal.” Supporting your child during this time is crucial to their academic success and emotional well-being.
Here are a few ways to help you and your child during this time.
Identify the Issues
Try to identify the issues. Talking with your child about what they believe is bothering them can be the first step to intervening. Some questions to think about is whether your child is being bullied, doesn’t have any friends, is not understanding their assignments, is falling behind on their assignments, or feels unsupported by their teacher. It’s important to brainstorm various possibilities that could be contributing to their school refusal. Rather than thinking of it from a behavioral standpoint, think about other factors first.
Collaborate with Others
"It takes a village to raise a child." Collaborate with your child’s school. Reaching out to the school counselor or social worker can help create conversations about why your child is refusing to go to school. Sometimes having your child talk with another adult who can be a part of the solution is helpful. Keeping open lines of communication with your child’s teacher about assignments and missing work is important. Children who fall behind and have multiple missing assignment can feel overwhelmed, which can lead to more school refusal.
Stick to Routines
Staying at home should be just like school. If your child is unable to go to school one day, try to create your child’s school routine at home. Completing homework or missing assignments, reading, and taking a lunch break should be implemented at home. No screen time, sleeping, or lounging unless your child is sick. Taking your child to the library to complete their work can also be a way to make home as school-like as possible.
Use Professional Guidance
If your child continues to struggle with school refusal, make an appointment with a mental health provider. School refusal can be a symptom of something else, such as anxiety. If anxiety is contributing to school refusal, talking to a mental health provider can help you to navigate the types of anxiety children experience, and determine ways to cope and to support your child.