When Children Refuse to Go to School
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When your child doesn't want to go to school, it's hard to know what to do. Child Development experts share ideas on how to get your child off to school, and when to get help.


Speaker: When your elementary school child says they don't want to go to school and cry, appear fearful, or just outright refuse to go, it's hard to know why and what to do? Experts say trying to avoid school is most common during elementary school years and it's often due to separation anxiety, especially if they haven't been to preschool. Sandra Menendez: There are some children that are having no opportunity to go to preschool. So, if they go to school age without ever being out of their parents sight. They are always with a parent or always with an adult from their family, when they are left in kindergarten or first grade, they are going to have the same anxiety. Speaker: One sign of separation anxiety is when your child asks, What if questions, like, What if you are not there when school is out? Or What if I get sick and you are not there?'. If it is separation anxiety, don't linger with the goodbyes and let your child know that you will see them after school or when you get home from work. Let them know, you will be there if they have a problem and pick an activity they like to do to use it as an incentive. Other causes they are trying to avoid school are related to socialization or academic difficulties. Dr. Marcel Ponton: Your child may have some problem in the school, either related to their academic performance, or some negative social interaction with ability or with a child or a person they don't like, or there may be some problems at home where they don't feel that they can go to school because they feel ashamed about what happened to them at home. Speaker: When school becomes a negative experience, kids will often develop physical complaints to stay home, come up with excuses why they can't go, skip school and just refuse to go. Here is what to do in this case. First ask questions to see of there is a reason why they don't want to go. If your child says, he is not feeling well then you suspect he or she is isn't sick. Let them know that when they are sick, they have to lay quietly in bed. The idea is to make staying home boring, so going to school seems like a better alternative. Another reason some kids try to skip school, it just isn't challenging enough. Dr. Marcel Ponton: Sometimes you have kids who are very bright and they get bored easily. Speaker: Confusion. A common problem among youngsters who are struggling to learn English, is another reason. Dr. Marcel Ponton: They feel that they can not understand what's happening in school and it is hard for them to make themselves understood. So, in those situations, that would be very common. Speaker: Parents shouldn't overlook the possibility that their child has underlying learning problem. Sandra Menendez: For the older kids, it might be -- they might have a disability in learning that no one has noticed and they haven't been referred and they really don't want to be in school. Speaker: If it's an academic problem, an evaluation might be appropriate to see if there is a learning disability. A child who has been physically abused at home can see school as being a different kind of threat. Dr. Marcel Ponton: If there is any indication of physical abuse and they perceive that their parents are going to get in trouble if they go to school and they show their welts or the marks on their skin, then that will be a problem for the whole family. And so the child may want to avoid school. Speaker: Changes in a child's environment or routine caused by situations like birth of a sibling, moving, changing schools, a change in parent's schedule or work situation, a friend moving away, or divorce or a death in the family can be unsettling and prompt a child to not want to go to school. Dr. Marcel Ponton: A parent needs to learn more about what is happening with the child. Another sign of course, is that the child may start talking bad about school, oh that school is terrible. They all treat me poorly. I don't know what I am doing there, etcetera. Typical reaction from a parent would be, oh you need to got to school and you will get over it, but a more helpful decision for the parent would be to understand what is it that the child is saying. Try to pay attention to the concerns that the child has, validate those concerns and then come to an agreement as to what needs to happen for the child's experience to be better in school. Sandra Menendez: The other thing you need to check is the environment in the school. Check the classroom, see how the classroom is. As a parent go and observe, take some time to go and observe the classroom and see what it's like, observe the children at play.