During my morning walks, I would see a young girl often crying on her way to school. I couldn’t find out the exact reason except that she didn’t want to go to school. I am sure the parents were doing what was best for their child. Yet, I couldn’t help but empathise with their dilemma. It must be such a difficult situation for parents when children refuse to attend school and even more so when they wouldn’t tell why.
Reasons for Refusal
Older children voice the reason if they want to but it can get tricky to understand with younger children. Here are some reasons why your children might throw a tantrum for avoiding the school:
- Separation Anxiety: Your children might be starting school for the first time or resuming after a break or vacation.
- Fear: Your children may be scared of a particular teacher or classmate. Your child could be victim of bullying, shaming or sexual harassment.
- Tragic Event: If your children have witnessed a death, divorce, severe illness or any traumatic event, it could lead to school refusal.
- Academic Pressure: The expectations of parents or teachers or peer pressure to excel at academics can keep them away from school.
- New Changes: If your children have transitioned to a new school or their favourite teacher or best friend has left the school, they may want to stay at home.
- Find out the Problem: Don’t make assumptions and force your children to go to school. Ask them if there is any reason why they are skipping the school often. If they are unable to tell you out of fear or embarrassment, ask them a few random questions about their day in the school. Their responses may give you an idea about what’s wrong. Listen to them without any judgement. You may also talk to your children’s friends, classmates or teachers.
- Address the Problem: Once you find out the reason your children refuse to go to school, solve it with a calm mind. For example, if your children are afraid of their teacher, it is advisable to understand whether it is a reasonable or generic claim. Document the instances where your children have feared the teacher. You can then request a meeting with that teacher and explain the situation. If the child-teacher relationship doesn’t improve and your child shows serious signs of panic before going to school, you might want to talk to the senior management about a change of classroom.
- Be Gentle Yet Firm: While it is understandable that your children don’t want to go to school for a genuine reason, it can’t continue for long. You have to give them a clear and consistent message albeit lovingly that you are there to support them but they can’t keep avoiding the school. Work out an approach they will feel comfortable with. For example, you can drop or pick them up from school for a few days. You can request the teacher to help your child gain confidence in coming to school or increase their interaction with classmates.
Don’t ignore or overreact when your children refuse to go to school. Take a problem-solving approach, children’s mindset and school’s support to address the issue.