If your child is burdened with some kind of anxiety, the beginning of a school year is sometimes not a pleasant experience for him or her. This can lead to school phobia, or school avoidance – a syndrome that manifests itself most visibly when there is a new school building involved (think about the first day of the middle of high school). Children with school phobia have a harder-than-usual time separating from their parents, and all sorts of strange medical complaints may crop up. Of these, stomach pain is probably the most common – however, the psychosomatic effect of anxiety has also been known to develop high temperatures school phobic children. A tantrum out of the blue is also not out of the question.
This may sound familiar to you – there certainly is a lot of discussion about school phobia on parent-teacher networking sites and at local PTA meetings. Some advice for parents is definitely in order.
A child with school phobia is usually not very forthcoming about what he or she is feeling, so the resistance and fear manifest in medical symptoms, tantrums, or obscure justifications for staying away from school. The fact is that a child with school phobia feels unsafe, and this may often have something to do with issues at home. The existence of a schoolyard bully is one of the most common reasons and there’s one at every level, be it elementary school, middle school, or high school.
However, school avoidance is also widely prevalent among kids whose parents are divorcing or whose family death has recently occurred. (In fact, children and divorce coexist uneasily on many other fronts, as well). Other possible triggers are financial issues at home, a change of schools, or learning difficulties. In other words, parents of such children should not automatically assume that the child is being lazy – there may and often are deeper issues involved, and that affects the overall student assessment.
Teachers are quite familiar with the signs of school phobia and have their own modus operandi for tackling it. The first thing they might do is send the parents home since their presence only makes things worse. Of course, this has to be done tactfully so as not to affect parent-teacher relations adversely. Most schools have a school counselor who is trained in calming and reassuring school phobic children. If a school bully is involved, they will address the problem tactfully. Teachers will try to identify if learning difficulties or
stress about homework is possible to reason.
However, the parent connection is still the most vital one in understanding and handling school phobia. You, being a parent, most help your child deal with home-based issues if they exist. A secure home front goes a long way in giving a child more comfortable about going to school. If your child is displaying a chronic avoidance of school, it pays to consider how problems in the parents’ relationship with each other, excessive pampering or expectations, or any other troubles at home may be contributing. If you have a child with school phobia, try discussing the problem on your parent-teacher networking forum – these usually yield some high-grade advice for parents on such issues.