If you have not experienced this, you may think this is odd. As, what kid actually likes school? But this is more serious. As society becomes more noisy and busy, and a young person’s every minute of life is hinged on a smartphone and instant gratification; then, feelings of rejection and withdraw may take over. And this can happen in Grade School as well as High School and College. And this is a growing problem. Experts call it “school refusal” and studies show it happens to 10 percent of all students of all age ranges.
Having been a youth Director for many years, I have come to the rescue of many preteens, teenagers, even college students cowering in a janitor’s closet or under the bleachers, in a fearful withdraw. This happens not just students who have a form of autism, or anxiety issues, but anyone. For autism, it is the noise, crowds, and lights that are the main culprits that they can’t handle. Sunglasses and noise reduction headphones will work wonders.
For younger ones, usually, it is the separation anxiety, with resulting tantrums, because of a fear of loss. For others, it is typically, social anxiety causing withdraws, that something happened to break them this way.
For teens in the past, it was mainly bulling, and this is still a major problem, even if your school says no. Then, there are the teen breakups with boyfriends and girlfriends. Although, these are still major players, now it is the humiliating comments on Twitter or Snapchat that just about everyone in the school has seen. This will cause an embarrassment, resulting in anger of portions, other generations never experienced.
Then, there are times when a student just becomes overstressed and overwhelmed due to academic challenges, like too much homework or grade advancement. Sometimes it can be a crisis at home. Sometimes, it is just puberty and over worrying. And since I have seen this in Japan and India where I often work, I know this is not just about American kids.
What to Look Out For
- Sudden changes in your child’s behavior. Usually, it starts out as constant complaining about school, to not wanting to go, to panic that turns into total fear. Most guidance counselors can’t identify with this, and tend to ignore the issue. Many parents are usually too busy to notice until it becomes a big problem.
- Before the fight or flight response, there will be a slowdown in their work performance. As they can’t focus or concentrate, as worry has overtaken them. That is when we are to step in with caring while asking questions and investigate.
What can we do as Parents?
- Take your child’s fear or refusal to go to school seriously. Put yourself in their shoes at their age. How would you feel and react to their peer and academic pressures?
- Make a commitment together to deal with it immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for all of you.
- Talk to your pediatrician and see if there are any underlining medical causes, such as thyroid or an anxiety disorder. If not, then ask for a referral to a Neurologist, as medication to manage anxiety may be needed and a Psychologist who does “cognitive behavior therapy.”
- Contact your school administration and teacher for a meeting, to discuss what is going on and a solution. Any effective treatment needs the teamwork of parents, teachers, school administrators and doctors working together.
- Make sure you kindly talk with your child and let them know you support them, and that we will work on this together
- If your child just does not like school, make sure you have an encouraging, loving home and reason with them why they need school. With younger kids, the principal or director can sit down with them and explain, that, “your parents are not abandoning you, everyone goes to school and it will be a great experience for you.” For older ones, only go to “tough love” if it is just defiant behavior. But, work with a Cognitive Behaviorist before doing this.
- If the situation is bad, like bullying or threats, and they can’t go back, their situation may just follow them. Thus, a good charter school with a flexible schedule or a homeschooling program, that has a high-quality customizable curriculum that works at her own pace and social activities will be your best help. A good school should offer all of this.
Remember this is your child, your investment of love and time will not go to waste. Be patient and take small steps. From the doing their work at home until the school fixes the problem and then take each step above, working with all involved. You can do this, and remember this is just a brief season.
More resources here: https://faculty.unlv.edu/wpmu/ckearney/the-unlv-child-school-refusal-and-anxiety-disorders-clinic/
Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher, seasoned Special Education teacher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a STEAM teacher and a father of a son with autism.
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