School Phobia: How to Help Your Child Overcome School Refusal?

This article discusses how to help your child overcome school refusal, also known as school phobia.
school phobia

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School phobia can wreak havoc on families. You must be concerned about more than the physical aspects of your child’s health, such as his diet, but also his mental health. As too much of either one of these can lead to mental decline, parents must find a balance.

Parents face the first hurdle in this situation when their child is accepted into the school. Your child will eventually refuse to attend school. This is known as “school refusal,” and it is very common. Although it can be challenging to address these problems, it is not impossible. To make their child feel more comfortable going to school, parents must identify the possible causes. This article will explain how to deal with school phobia and how parents can help their children manage it.

What is School Phobia for Children?

School refusal syndrome or school phobia is when a child refuses to attend school for some reason. A child might not want to go to school or refuse to go because he or she is afraid or something else. A school avoidance disorder could be a condition where the child is unable to go to school. This may manifest in physical symptoms such as sadness or sickness. Anxiety can lead to the child preferring to stay at home and do other activities than going to school.

school phobia

What causes school phobia in kids?

There are many reasons why a child is afraid of school. It is important to understand these from the child’s point of view. Below are some common causes of school refusal syndrome:

  • Fear of being evaluated A school is a place where every child’s capabilities are measured and displayed. The child may refuse to attend school on sports days or public speaking days. This can lead to anxiety, and he might choose to skip the whole episode.
  • Separation anxiety: Children are susceptible to separation anxiety and adults can suffer from it. The prospect of being placed in an environment without parental care can be difficult for a child who has been raised by loving parents.
  • Academic problems: Academic difficulties or learning difficulties are frequent in children. The pressures that they create can cause them to choose not to go to school.
  • Peer issues: School is where the child interacts with many other people, including his peers. Children are susceptible to social isolation, bullying, and conflicts with their friends. They may even refuse to attend school altogether.
  • Avoid conflict with teachers: If your child finds a teacher intimidating, they might be reluctant to attend school.
  • Traumatic events Some traumatic situations, such as divorce or separation from parents, can lead to school refusal for children.
  • Transition: Moving from one school to another can be difficult for children. He may prefer to stay home and enjoy a familiar environment, rather than going to school.
  • Home Rewards: Staying home allows the child to spend more time with parents or even do simple, fun things like watching TV. It is possible that the child chooses to spend time with their parents instead of at school.

Symptoms of School Phobia

Tantrums, running or hiding from school, and lashing out with physical force are clear-cut signs of school refusal, but many students engage in more subtle behaviors. Watch for these signs of school refusal that are sometimes overlooked:

  • Frequent physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, chest pains, muscle pains, feeling dizzy or feeling exhausted
  • Regular trips to the school nurse for no real medical reason
  • Illnesses on test days or days when students need to present oral reports
  • Frequent requests to call home
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • Refusal to engage with peers or participate in social activities
  • Willingness to complete work at home

How to Help Your Child Overcome School Refusal?

A team approach is the best way to help children who refuse school. Children tend to be focused on the things they don’t like and worry about at school. However, there are many underlying issues that can cause anxiety, such as stress at home, stress in the family, or medical problems (e.g., a child with asthma might worry about an asthma attack at school). A strong team includes the school psychologist, the family, the school psychologist, and any other specialists who work with the child. Here is how to help your child overcome school refusal.

1. Assess

A comprehensive psychological and medical evaluation is the first step. School refusals are often due to anxiety or depression. It is important to identify the source of the problem and get started. Interviews with teachers and family members are likely to be part of this process.

2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy helps children to identify their thoughts patterns and develop adaptive replacement behaviors. Children learn to face and overcome their fears.

school psychologist in India

3. Systemic desensitization

It is a method that helps children who are unable to attend school. They may return to school for a short time and then build on it.

4. Children with anxiety should learn relaxation training. 

Relaxation strategies for children include guided imagery, deep breathing, mindfulness, and guided imagery.

5. Re-entry plan

The treatment team develops a plan that will help the student return to school. Children younger than 12 years old might be able to help the teacher or the front desk by arriving earlier. The plan includes contingencies that will help the student in anxious moments throughout their day (using fidget toys and taking a brain break with color, walking outside with a teacher’s aid, etc.).

6. Structure and routine

Children who are anxious will benefit from predictable routines at home. Avoid scheduling too many activities, which can cause anxiety in anxious children. Instead, set specific morning and night routines.

7. Sleep

Anxiety and depression are exacerbated by sleep deprivation. It can also make it difficult to get up in the morning and go to school. Develop healthy sleeping habits and maintain a regular sleep schedule even on holidays.

8. Peer buddy

You might consider asking a peer buddy to help you during recess, lunch, and other structured times. Anxiety can spike during these periods.

9. Social skills training

Students who have trouble making or keeping friends in school often feel overwhelmed. Children can learn how to connect with their peers and feel more comfortable in large groups by joining social skills groups.

School refusal is not something you can do overnight. There are times when you might experience growth, but then you may have to face significant setbacks after school vacations or repeated absences due to illness. Recognize your child’s difficulties, communicate openly and honestly about them, show empathy, and give your child your unconditional love and support.

Also, Read

Nocturnal Enuresis or Bedwetting Problems In Kids | How To Stop Bedwetting?

How To Improve Family Relations? 9 Amazing Tips

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): 4 Benefits Of CBT

Struggles Of A Psychologist: 10 Challenges Faced By A Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Neha Mehta

Dr. Neha Mehta is an RCI registered Psychologist, certified Relationship Counselor, and a well-known Child Psychologist practicing in Haryana. Dr. Neha has 10 years of enriching experience in the field of counseling. She’s an accredited Psychologist by NIMHANS and International Affiliate with American Psychological Association.

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