Is your child actually sick, or are they school phobic?
Does your child frequently feel sick just before leaving for school?
Do those symptoms, like headaches and stomach aches, disappear at home until it is time to go to school again?
Experts say it could be school avoidance. Also called school refusal or phobia, as many as five percent of children may struggle with the disorder.
“When kids routinely don’t want to go to school, there is usually an emotional struggle at the core,” says Dr. Frank Belmonte, pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “The reasons that are most common are social problems with other kids, bullying, a ‘mean’ teacher or fear of failure.”
So what is a parent to do?
“First, see your pediatrician,” says Dr. Belmonte. “You will want to rule out the possibility of a physical illness. “If something physical is not the cause, parents need to identify what is causing the child’s worry and anxiety.”
Here are some tips for helping your child overcome school avoidance:
- Talk and listen to your child. Be sympathetic and encourage them to tell you why they don’t want to go to school.
- If a problem is identified, talk with school staff and ask for their support.
- Be firm on school days; don’t let your child make excuses for not going.
- If your child does stay home, don’t give them special treatment.
- Encourage your child to have outings with other kids outside the home to build independence.
Dr. Belmonte suggests that if school avoidance continues for more than a week, you should see your pediatrician. Depending on the severity, your doctor may recommend a consultation with a behavioral health professional.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!