For some children, the prospect of school induces a high level of fear, described as school phobia or refusal. In most cases, parents can make decisions that do not dispel the children’s fear but fuel it
Parents always try to protect their children from any possible dangers and would never want to spend much time away from them. However, when children reach the age for school, things start to go differently. This can be stressful not only for parents but also for the children, who will be away from home for the first time.
A number of experts share their insights on why school phobia, also known as school refusal, occurs and how parents can deal with it. It is crucial that we know why something happens, before we can actually solve it. School phobia is defined as the child’s resistance or fear of going to school and intense anxiety ahead of school time. The main reason underlying school phobia is fear. The fear of leaving ones mother, losing her, and moving away from home, where they have lived safely for years are the main reasons that lie at the heart of these problems. All these fears are called separation anxiety.
When it comes down to the details, it seems that the parents are the ones who reflect these fears on their children and push them away from school. So, if you are an overprotective parent, if you have prejudices and anxieties against the school, and if you are constantly talking about “disasters” that can happen to your child at school, then you are one of the sources of this phobia. Lack of self-esteem, domestic unrest, sibling jealousy, divorce, performance anxiety and trauma history are among the other reasons for school phobia. According to experts, factors can involve not just the children, but their parents and educators as well. For parents, their oppressive attitudes, high expectations and perfectionist ideas, for the educators, constant orders and insensitivity, while for a child, his/her inability to make friends and subsequently being lonely, problems with the teacher, difficulties in school activities, difficulty in doing homework, changing schools or teachers, illness in the family, difficulty in adapting to classmates and friends in school, being mocked, harmed or bullied at school, having bodily imperfections such as being overweight or underweight and therefore others making fun of the child have all been found to trigger school phobia.
School phobia, unlike what people might think, is not seen only in the first year of the school. Experts say this is common in children aged 10 to 11. It seems that a first child, an only child or an orphan may be the most common sufferers when the common characteristics of those experiencing this phobia are examined. On the basis of gender, it is known that boys experience school phobia more frequently than girls.
So, what should parents do? It is perfectly normal that a child, who will attend school for the first time, would not be too eager to join classes. Parents should encourage their children not to bottle up their fears. They should tell them that they understand their fears. It will be a great relief for them to hear that this situation will pass with time, why they should go to the school and that there are other children in the same situation.
The worst thing for children with this type of phobia is the fear that they will not find their parents when they return home. So, parents must tell them that they will be home waiting for them to return.
It is ‘not’ okay if your child does not want to go to school today
It does not matter what your child is experiencing or which somatic complaints he/she displays. He has to go to school. Every day that your child does not go to school, it will become more difficult for them to return to school. They will fall behind in class, stay away from friends and therefore school phobia will become chronic and bring new problems with it.
‘If I get mad at the child, he gets scared of me and goes to school’
The fact that families send their children with school phobia to school by getting mad at them or scaring them may cause the fear to increase and the phobia to become chronic. For this reason, instead of sending your children to the school by scaring them, it is best to listen and understand their fears, to make them feel that they are not alone, and to tell and convince them that it is important for them to go to school.
Changing schools and teachers ıs not a healthy option
Changing schools and teachers due to school phobia is not the right thing to do. Because the child will perceive these symptoms as “secondary gains” and when they encounter a problem with school or their friends, they will try to make you do what they want by crying, refusing, raging and presenting somatic complaints. Children who try to gain things by crying will begin to use this “crying behavior” everywhere. A child who presents somatic symptoms as an escape technique in difficult times will not learn healthy coping mechanisms.
Thinking that your child pretending can be wrong
The symptoms of school phobia (abdominal pain, stomach ache, headache, vomiting, fainting) are somatic complaints. The child feels those symptoms and feels really uncomfortable at that moment.