The academic year can be a challenging time for families. It becomes even more so when a child resists or tries to avoid going to school. Cindy Glass, Director and Co-founder of Step Up Education Centres explains “Emotions tend to run high, panic may set in and too often, parents feel quite helpless in these stressful situations. Children may feign illness, throw temper tantrums or act out in other negative ways in order to force their parents to let them stay at home. The reasons why are varied. Children who are being bullied, are constantly being yelled at, who battle with the academic programme or who feel lonely or depressed may insist on staying home instead of attending the regular school day. Exhaustion, fear of an upcoming test or assignment or fears of a wrongdoing may also contribute to school avoidance. Dealing with these situations is never easy and, as with all challenges in bringing up our children, there is no one-size-fits-all solutions.”
Cindy suggests the following helpful tips if you have a child who no longer wants to go to school:
1. Don’t panic and let fear-filled emotions (such as anger and critical judgement) cloud your vision in finding positive, helpful solutions. Remember that all negative behavioural choices are based on some sort of fear. Make it your mission to find out what it is that your child is afraid of and then decide on how best to give your child the tools needed to face and overcome those fears.
2. Don’t allow staying at home to become a ‘fun’ alternative to going to school. Be firm in not allowing activities such as watching TV or playing computer games when a child stays home on a school day. There need to be consequences to not going to school-be it catching up on missed work, learning for the missed test or just being bored! Teach your children not to avoid their fears, but to face them and to find solutions that work for them.
3. Keep the lines of communication between yourself and your children and yourself and your children’s teachers, wide open! Honest, non-judgemental communication can lead to many valuable life lessons being learned.
4. Choose to be supportive, but firm in your resolve to ensure that your child attends school. It is essential to allow your child to tell you (without fear) why he/she is avoiding school. If any abuse (from peers or teachers) is the cause of school avoidance, it is essential that you take the matter up with the appropriate authorities within a school. No child should be staying at home for fear of abuse of any kind.
Cindy concludes by saying “There are no easy, one-stop solutions to dealing with the challenges of a child who refuses to go to school. Remember that, as a parent, how you choose to handle the situation will set the tone for how your child will handle challenges in his life. Be consistently loving and firm while you aim at finding positive, sustainable solutions.”