When kids avoid school

Does your child get sick every morning before school? Why doesn't your child want to go to school?

A favorite story of my family is when my brother Drew left school during recess, walked the quarter of a mile home and announced to my surprised mother that he had quit school. At the time he was in first grade. When asked why, he indignantly told her because the other kids weren’t following the rules while playing ball. My mom had a chat with Drew and then walked him back to school. Drew stayed in school and graduated with his class and never threatened to quit again.

Developmentally many children ages five and six and again at 10- and 11-years-old, who are in transition years at school, may go through a rough time and not want to attend school, especially if other children aren’t following the rules. Drew’s story is a funny family tale that one day his grandchildren will laugh over and was an isolated incident. Not so funny, is the anxiety some children develop about school and the worry parents experience when a child doesn’t want to go to school and the reason is unknown.

What’s going on with your child? Every night before bed or each morning before school your child starts to complain of a stomachache, headache, nausea, feelings of being dizzy or has various body aches and pains, is it real? Michigan State University Extension says to notice and take note of what is going on with, and around your child. There are obvious triggers; news coverage of tragic events such as the Sandy Hook school shootings, being bullied, experiencing a serious illness or death in the family, a new sibling or a move from all that was familiar. Have mom or dad recently been re-married? Has grandma or grandpa begun to live with you and has failing health? Have eating habits changed? Is your child sick on the weekends? A visit to your family doctor is the best way to rule out any illness. Next, notice your child’s behavior: Is he clingy now but wasn’t? Are they having fears developed about things they were not previously afraid of? Continue your detective work at school. Has the teacher, lunch room aide, playground aide or principal noticed anything? Does your child still play with friends at school? Has anything at school changed? Is there a new teacher, has someone close to your child at school become ill? Has a friend moved away? Are friends suddenly pairing off and leaving your child out? Who else is in the life of your child? Child care provider, scout leader or Sunday school teacher? These people care about your child, know your child; and may have insights to share.

Once your family health provider has determined no illnesses are present, it’s very important to get your child back in to school. The longer at home, the more difficult it will be to get them back in school. Even though the doctor found no illness, it doesn’t mean symptoms aren’t real. The cause of the distress is the difference. Create a plan with your child, your child’s teacher, school nurse and the principal when symptoms occur at school. Maybe instead of calling parents to come and get their child, the child is allowed to sit with the nurse, or principal or office staff for 10 to 15 minutes and then returns to class. While this also cannot go on endlessly, it may be a start. Counseling is also an option. Check with your doctor and/or the school for counseling services available. Patience and compassion on the part of adults during this time is very important. This behavior is first worrisome and can be exasperating. Your child needs you, and the other adults in his life, in order to work through the anxieties and get back on track to important childhood issues such as balling ball by the rules.

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