‘I just don’t want to’

Tips for the child who fears and/or re­fuses to go to school

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - NEWS - DR. PAUL ROUMELIOTIS HEALTH MAT­TERS

school avoid­ance – re­fus­ing to go to school or fear of go­ing to school – oc­curs in about 5 per cent of all chil­dren.

with pa­tience and by try­ing to un­der­stand why the child fears school, the prob­lem can be over­come. re­mem­ber the school-pho­bic child is go­ing through a hard time and needs all of your sup­port. work­ing in con­cert with the school is im­por­tant too.

What causes school avoid­ance or pho­bia?

For young chil­dren, school means spend­ing a lot of time away from home. not only do chil­dren miss home in the school set­ting, but they are faced with new ex­pe­ri­ences, chal­lenges and pres­sures( both so­cial and aca­demic).

some chil­dren adapt very well into the new en­vi­ron­ment, yet oth­ers miss home, which be­comes a source of anx­i­ety and fear.

In some chil­dren, home or fam­ily fac­tors can play a role; for ex­am­ple if there is an ill­ness in the child or fam­ily, a re­cent di­vorce/sep­a­ra­tion or if one par­ent is stressed or de­pressed.

Th­ese sit­u­a­tions may ei­ther cause school pho­bia or worsen it.

Symp­toms or signs of school re­fusal

not sur­pris­ingly school re­fusal symp­toms oc­cur most of­ten on school days, and are usu­ally ab­sent on week­ends and dur­ing the sum­mer hol­i­days.

The ob­vi­ous signs of school re­fusal in­clude:

• out­right re­fusal to at­tend school;

• Con­stantly cre­at­ing rea­sons why not to go to school; • miss­ing a lot of school; and, • Fre­quent com­plaints about not feel­ing well with vague or non-spe­cific symp­toms;

In rare cases, chil­dren with school pho­bia or fear, can com­plain of chronic phys­i­cal symp­toms in­clud­ing headaches, ab­dom­i­nal pain, nau­sea or dizzi­ness. when th­ese com­plaints are med­i­cally eval­u­ated, there usu­ally is no med­i­cal cause found.

Rea­sons for school avoid­ance or school pho­bia

most school-avoid­ing chil­dren do not know why they are school­pho­bic, and may have dif­fi­culty talk­ing about the source of their anx­i­ety. aside from dif­fi­culty in sep­a­rat­ing from par­ents, there are some school-re­lated fac­tors that can cause school avoid­ance in­clud­ing: • Fear of fail­ure; • Teas­ing by other chil­dren; • anx­i­eties over us­ing a pub­lic bath­room;

• a per­cep­tion that teacher and other school per­son­nel are “mean”;

• Threats of phys­i­cal harm (as from a school bully) or ac­tual phys­i­cal harm; and,

• ex­ist­ing learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties or dis­abil­i­ties

non-school re­lated causes may in­clude the loss of a loved one through death, di­vorce or mov­ing to an­other lo­cale and other home prob­lems or sit­u­a­tions.

Deal­ing with school avoid­ance

There is no one magic cure or fix. The most im­por­tant as­pect of deal­ing with a school pho­bic child is to find out what the un­der­ly­ing cause is. although the cause may be di­rectly school-re­lated, in some cases it has to do with home, per­sonal or fam­ily is­sues.

once the cause has been iden­ti­fied, it is then eas­ier to try to plan a cus­tom­ized ap­proach to help the child. at times it may nec­es­sary to in­volve not only the school per­son­nel, but a pediatrician and even a psy­chol­o­gist.

The good news is though, that with age, school pho­bia usu­ally does im­prove, be­com­ing less com­mon in older chil­dren.

ANNE-CHRIS­TINE POUJOULAT/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

A pupil holds the hand of her fa­ther in the court­yard at the Abbe de l'Epee el­e­men­tary school in Mar­seille, south­ern France, in this 2013 file photo.

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