When your child hates school !

My daughter says she hates school. She complains about mysterious headaches and stomachaches, or finds other excuses for not going to school.

Think about it:
By observing your child, asking subtle questions, and talking with the teacher, you may be able to determine the reasons for this behavior.

There are a variety of typical reasons for a child not wanting to attend school. It may be that a school yard bully is picking on your child. Maybe she doesn’t have any friends, or she is having a difficult time with a specific project or subject, or has a personality conflict with the teacher. If your child is reluctant to talk, use the safety of the “some-kids” comment and take your best guess about what you think the problem might be, “Some kids are afraid they might get lost in such a big school building. How do you feel about finding your way around?”

Once you have pinpointed the problem, you can acknowledge and validate her feelings. Then problem solve with your child to find an acceptable solution.

Solution #1: Make an appointment with a pediatrician for a check up. Poor eyesight, a hearing problem, or other hard-to-detect learning disabilities can make school a very unpleasant place for a child. A check-up can pinpoint or rule out a physical problem.

Solution #2: Don’t encourage your child’s anxieties by overprotecting him. Saying things like, “I’m just a phone call away if you need me” or “The teacher or principal is there to help you with any problems” can confirm a child’s fears. She may think, “if my parents are worried, then I should be, too.” Instead, have a relaxed, supportive attitude. Convey the message that all children go to school, and it’s a normal routine part of life. Make school more fun by participating in school events and showing great interest in your child’s schoolwork and activities.

Solution #3: Help your child overcome her fearful emotions by letting her rehearse or practice for the situations she finds daunting. If she has a hard time speaking out in class, practice having her raise her hand and ask a question at the dinner table. When she does, say something like, “That’s a very good question!” If she is struggling with making friends teach her a few opening lines, such as, “Hi, my name’s Heather. Want to play catch?” If she’s afraid she might get lost in the hallways, visit the school after hours and walk around together, letting her point out her classroom, the art room, the gym, and the cafeteria.

Solution #4: If your child is having trouble with the teacher, have a discussion with her to clarify exactly what the problems are. If the problem is a very specific one (“She never calls on me”), problem solve with your child about how to find a solution. It may help if you assist your child in rehearsing the exact words she can say to the teacher, such as: “I would like to answer more questions in class. Could you please call on me more often?” If the problem is more complicated, set an appointment with the teacher. If you find the teacher is not helpful, talk with the principal or school counselor.

Solution #5: Have specific rules for staying home from school. For example, a fever of 100 degrees, vomiting, etc. Establish strict sick day rules. A healthy child who must stay in bed all day and forgo any evening activities will often “recover” quickly.

Solution #6: For a low-intensity, whining complaint about having to go to school, simply respond, “It’s the law. All kids have to go to school.”

NOTE: If your child appears to have extreme fears about going to school, it’s important that you talk with a professional. Call the school for a recommendation.

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