Few children are ecstatic at the thought of waking up early and spending six hours at school, but some downright refuse to do it. Why is it so? And how do you deal with it?
As a mother of a six-year-old child, every morning is a bit of a battle to get him out of bed, into his uniform and in the mood for learning, but one way or another we always seem to manage to come to an agreement and our day goes on. My friend’s child, however, was not so easy.
Halfway through the last scholastic year, the child – who I will call Lilly – started mysteriously developing headaches and stomach-aches every morning. At first Lilly’s mother got very worried, and didn’t send her daughter to school; but after the third trip to the doctor’s, it really seemed as if Lilly was making it all up.
The doctor was right, of course, physically Lilly was perfectly fine but emotionally and psychologically she was not. The child was dealing with her parents’ separation in the only way she knew how: by throwing tantrums that would get her noticed.
As things started falling into place, both the doctor and the parents realised that Lilly was suffering from what is known as ‘school refusal’. The psychological trauma she had experienced through her parents’ separation had manifested itself in such a way that the deep emotional distress and anxiety was coming out as physical symptoms that obviously had no physical roots.
The same, as a bit of research has revealed, can happen to children who have lost a loved one, are bullied at school, have moved schools, or are even at an age in which they realise that they are about to leave primary. I’m pointing all this out because the most important way of dealing with kids who suffer from ‘school refusal’ is to understand why they are doing it.
As a parent it is important to take time and listen to your child, and to also remember that, although the symptoms are not really physical, it does not mean that they are not feeling them – stress can be as painful as a car crash! But you also need to have an iron fist at a time when all you want to do is grab your child and hug them.
Force them onto the school bus and cry in your car if you must, but one of the most important things to do in this situation is to not allow them to skip school because the more they stay at home the harder it will be for them to go back. Talk to the school councillor and their teacher, and try to figure something out with them – such as having a 10 minute break in between lessons to calm down, for example – and if things don’t seem to get better it might also be a good idea to seek the guidance of a child psychologist who can help you and your child deal with the stress that is triggering ‘school refusal’.
Do you have any more advice on how to deal with ‘school refusal’? Let us know!