Updated: Feb 15, 2022
At the beginning of the school year anxiety in children is common after a long break and especially after the uncertainty of start dates and possible interruptions by lockdowns. Parents need to be calm and confident in supporting school attendance because if school refusal starts, it can often snowball. I often say to the child and their parents, “avoidance is not a good strategy”. If anxiety is high, I would suggest the following tips if school refusal became a problem:
Tips for parents
1.Talk to your child about their experience of anxiety and encourage them to share their feelings.
2. Understand their somatic complaints, like tummy pain, feel very real. Reframe them as symptoms of anxiety. Explain that anxiety management will decrease their somatic symptoms and distress.
3. Remain calm yourself to model calm behaviour which will assist in being firm with them to challenge their anxiety about school.
4. Make it clear that school attendance is not optional and that there is agreement between all adults about a firm attitude to return the child to school.
5. Have a clear routine in the morning with clear instructions about expectations, explanation of the plan and what is going to occur prior to school and at school.
6. Have a management plan with the appropriate school personnel so that transfer of your child to school occurs as seamlessly as possible.
7. Be on time for pickup at school so that that there is a sense of reliability and routine in that process.
8. If rapid return to school does not occur obtain appropriate help from a child psychologist or psychiatrist. (unfortunately often not possible due to high demand and wait times)
9. Be aware of your own anxiety and mental health needs particularly as to how this affects your child's anxiety.
The School Wobblies, a book on school refusal for children is available at www.delphisbooks.com