“I don’t want to go to school” -does this phrase ring a bell? Each September, millions of parents have to cope with their children’s beginning-of-the-year anxiety, tears and those knots in the stomach that sometimes last even longer than the first month. Actually, most kids would prefer to be at home playing with their toys, or enjoying their favorite activities, surrounded by the people they love. Why would they want to leave the house? Here are some thoughts on how to cope with back to school anxiety and refusal throughout the year.
First of all, relax. There’s nothing wrong with your child. School anxiety is a common phenomenon, expected mainly during times of family and home changes (aka a new baby, moving into another house, a divorce, the death of a pet). Back-to-school anxiety can also rear its ugly head when kids are entering a transition year – going to a new school, or having a different teacher this year, can be stressful and challenging.
Explain to your little one that it is normal to have concerns. Anxious children worry about many different school-related issues, such as new classmates and different school subjects. Point out that even you feel anxious at a new job; it’s completely natural.
Problem-solving skills require problem-identifying skills. Find out if there is a specific reason why your child refuses to go to school. Is there some friction with another child? Does your little one feel that he/she can’t fit in? “Don’t worry!” or “Everything will be fine!” are too general phrases. Say something like, “Let’s think of some ways you could handle that problem” – uncover what is underneath your child’s school refusal, acknowledge the feeling, and then move toward action.
Most kids can think of something good at school, even if it’s just playing in the schoolyard. Is there a friend your child may look forward to seeing? A special school subject or extracurricular activity that he/she loves? Focusing on the fun aspects of going back to school can help overpower any anxious thoughts.
*extra tip: Talk about your own school days, the fun activities you enjoyed, and what made school so special (friends and field trips are always good examples). All kids love to hear stories from their parents’ childhood since it helps normalize any difficult or new feelings they are experiencing.
Children can’t choose when to go back to school or what subjects to study. But the more we let them feel in control, the better. Make shopping in September fun and let your little one choose a new backpack and pencil case, a fun lunchbox, etc.
For younger kids who are nervous about separating, trust the power of a special object that will remind your little one of home. It takes time to form a trusting relationship with a new teacher and to make new friends, but a reassuring item can make this process a little bit easier.
*extra tip: If your kid has a history of separation anxiety in other settings, inform his/her teacher. Extra support may help to make an easier and successful transition to the new school year.
Make sure you are on the same page with the after- school childcarer who takes care of your child so that she follows your family’s routine and approach concerning the child’s school anxiety. In Nannuka, you can find background checked babysitters who can stand by your little student’s side and make the demanding school period easier for the whole family.