A child’s anxieties, whether caused by stress about their social life, high pressure tests and exams or another of the other many possible reasons, may cause them to refuse to receive their education and actively avoid school. As the parent of your child, not only will their poor mental and social health worry you, but also that they are missing out on their very essential education.
In brief, as a parent, to help your child overcome the anxiety preventing them from receiving their education, you must first find the cause(s) of their anxiety by being respectful and understanding when communicating with them. Knowing the cause, you can then contact the school to try to work out a long-term solution or plan to allow your child to feel safer and happier learning in a better environment. However, the school may offer a solution that does not help the child or fix the root of their anxieties and perhaps the child may be unwilling to reach out again. Reaching out for more advanced help – someone highly informed for the child to talk to or to suggest more effective solutions – would be the best plan of action.
Disclaimer: this article represents my personal opinion as a student. The tips and steps provided in this article are formed from my personal experiences as a child going through school. This article should not be used in isolation when making decisions about your child’s future and you should seek information from other qualified authorities on matters of your child’s mental health.
To find out more about what to do as a parent to help your child enjoy their education without anxiety, continue reading this article and hopefully the answers to your questions on the subject will be provided.
Table of Contents
1. Find the Cause of Your Child’s School Related Anxiety
When children are against attending school due to anxiety it is called school refusal. To find the reason for this severe anxiety they are facing, the first and most important thing you can do is understand why and how the child is feeling.
Talking to your child will not just help you understand the cause of their anxiety but will also likely reduce the anxiety they are feeling, even by a little. Communicating with your child, will require you to be understanding as their parent – this means not dismissing their anxieties and worries or offering solutions that they are not willing to apply.
By respecting the anxiety that they feel, finding a solution to the cause will be made easier. Doing further research on how to help or talk to your child is also a good idea – perhaps helplines or parent-child interaction therapy if willing and necessary. For example, talking to an old friend from your old days at school who you know experienced a similar problem or calling Parent Line (at 08000 28 22 33) for some advice can both help you to be a more understanding parent to your child.
The information and experiences you learn may also help reduce some of your own worry and improve your mental health. Your mental health is important to helping your child improve theirs as they are now relying on you to help them find a solution to the anxiety they are facing.
To become more informed on what your child may be going through and what to do, check out this leading Oxford-based child psychiatrist explaining what to do about social anxiety.
2. Try to Think of a Solution to the Cause of the Anxiety
Knowing the cause means solutions can now be considered. The most effective way to find a solution would be to contact and communicate with the root of their anxieties: the school itself. Informing the school will be very beneficial – they will know how to help and be able to carry it out. Schools generally have a counsellor, PSE teachers or guidance teachers that are trained in supporting students with their school stress and anxiety. The student can go talk to this representative at their school.
If they aren’t comfortable talking to that specific teacher, any teacher that the child is willing to talk to, will be able to help. If the parent would like to talk to the school in the place of or in addition to the child, this would be even more effective in helping your child find a long-term solution to improving their life at school so they can have a higher attendance.
Arranging a talk with the child, their trusted teacher, higher school staff and also the parent present would be the best way to help discuss solutions to improve the situation. Once changes are made to allow the child to feel less anxious, they will be happy to continue their education.
3. Calculate What Impact the School Can Have in Helping Your Child
Once the school has been contacted and informed with the explanation, they will be able to make changes to the school life of your child to help manage their anxiety.
The school will likely refer your child to the counsellor to set up regular meetings on how your child is coping and what the school can do.
The school can also provide a person to accompany your child throughout their school day to reduce their anxiety. This may be a member of the pupil support staff. This solution can further be developed by setting up regular meetings between you and this staff member to discuss progress and updates.
However, the child may be uncomfortable with a member of staff and in this case, the school can provide them with a peer in the same year as your child or closer to their age than a staff member.
The school can also help your child find their place in the school by referring your child to clubs or responsibilities they may be interested in. This will lead to a more enjoyable school day for you child, providing them with more motivation.
The school should provide any resources or help that your child requires to allow them to get a thorough education. If the member of staff assigned to assist your child is not responding and helping your child, you can contact staff members senior to them until you reach higher management. If the school is still unhelpful, you can contact the school governors, which can be found on the main website of the school.
4. Assess Whether Your Child is Unwilling to Communicate with the School
It is important to remember that throughout the whole process of improving your child’s anxiety, they must be completely comfortable. If the child is not happy with the solution or doesn’t believe it will work, then the solution is unlikely to last in the long-term solution nor will it improve your child’s mental health, which is the main requirement to allow them to be able to attend school.
If the child is unwilling to talk to a teacher – do not force them. This will only have negative effects and they likely have a good reason for being unwilling. Perhaps the teachers at the school are part of or wholly the problem of the child’s anxiety and the child therefore doesn’t feel comfortable disclosing their anxiety.
Perhaps try to persuade them by explaining the benefits and reminding them of their confidentiality. Another option would be indirect communication – when you, as the parent of your child, speak to the school counsellor or the staff involved about what your child is going through. The child may then feel more comfortable once the counsellor has been informed and they may open up more.
If this is not the case and child is fiercely against any involvement of the school, the best option is not to go against the child’s will but to seek external help from a therapist, who will provide advice and offer other solutions.
Which Reasons Could be Making Your Child Anxious?
There are many reasons that your child may be feeling such anxiety that they are unwilling to go to school. Their refusal to attend may be due to one or a combination of the following causes:
It may be separation anxiety – they are extremely homesick. Your child may be very connected with their home and family, and they aren’t willing to leave them to go to school.
The cause may be to do with the child’s social life and health in the school. For example, the worry of not having any friends, or not seeing their closest friends very often are relatively common reasons.
However, your child’s anxiety may have nothing to do with the social life at the school – perhaps they feel anxious due to the high workload or the difficulty level. They may be unwilling to go to school as the feel very academically or athletically pressured and are very disappointed in their own grades or performance.
The periods when your child is most likely to miss school due to anxiety is when they move from primary to high school or middle to high school. This transition comes with many changes, both of setting and also people and is a lot for children to get used to.
Another common time your child may be experiencing anxiety about going to school is when they move to a brand-new school, especially in the middle of a school year. They may feel that everyone has made friends already and therefore be very socially anxious.
Your child may have a diagnosable disorder that causes their anxiety to generally be harder to fight off and deal with and also has a very large impact upon them, doing a great deal of damage. Some examples of these may be social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder and selective mutism.
Your child may have experienced or currently be experiencing pressure from something outside of school and this may be causing them to have too much to worry about and therefore may be anxious about school adding to their current stress. The out of school pressure may have several causes including trauma or a big change in their home life.
For more possible reasons on what may be causing you child to feel socially anxious visit this website.
Should You Let Your Child Stay at Home?
The short answer would be no. Your child requires this basic foundation of education to do everything or anything they want to do later in life. Aside from the essential knowledge about key subjects, school develops skills that the child will be unable to live without after their education. This includes social skills or coping under exam conditions.
However, the anxiety your child is experiencing would continue to affect them even if they did attend school; they will be unable to receive a proper education either way. This is why it is so important to find a long-term solution to the root of their anxiety, allowing them to be happy to attend school and also take away as much from each school day as they possibly can.
After solutions have been found and changes have been established, be clear and firm, to your child that they have to attend school for their own good. Furthermore, leaving the house and being social may in fact help the child deal with their anxiety.
How Can You Support Your Child’s Mental Health?
The anxiety your child is suffering about going to school is very bad for their mental health. It may leave them feeling lonely, very nervous or even depressed. Even if a long-term solution has been put in place to help the child’s anxiety decrease over time, their mental health will still be very poor until their school life improves enough.
Something that you can do to help improve and support your child’s mental health on the daily is to create and establish a morning a night routine that makes your child feel happy and refreshed thus ensuring their home life is structured in a way that makes them happy – providing stability to help reduce their anxiety.
Another important factor in their mental health is to make sure your child has a way to relieve their stress – perhaps talking to you or another trusted person, writing a diary, or an activity they enjoy. However, although your child may need someone to talk to, make sure not to push too hard as this may have the opposite effect.
Taking care of your own mental health is important to supporting that of your child’s. This is because your child will learn from you and be relying on you; if you don’t take care of your own mental health, it will affect that of your child’s very negatively.
Creating time for the two of you to spend together will benefit both of your mental health’s greatly. This is because it will create a time when they feel comfortable opening up to you and telling you how they feel and also allow both of you to relax and have a good time together.
A good night’s sleep is very important to your child mental health. Make sure you agree on a time and schedule in the evening for them receive the necessary amount of sleep to be energised for the next day.
To support your child’s mental health, provide them with the resources they require to remain happy. For example, if your child would like to see a therapist to improve their mental health, find a few reliable therapist options so that they have access to professional help while being comfortable and safe.
Should Your Child Go to a Therapist and Seek External Help?
You may find help outside of school to deal with your child’s anxiety or visit a psychotherapist for several reasons.
Your child’s anxiety that prevents them from attending school may be a diagnosable type of anxiety that requires treatment and support from specialised individuals. It is vital that these types of anxiety receive early intervention, or they can affect your child greatly, so it is always beneficial to go see a therapist if unsure.
Reaching out for more advanced help if communication with the school is unhelpful or does not have a positive impact is a second reason. A therapist can help your child a lot. Therapists are trained and have experience helping people overcome stress and anxiety. They will be able to understand what your child is going through and provide relevant advice.