Many children and teenagers struggle to get back into the school routine after a long break. They struggle with the change in bedtime routine, the long hours in the classroom and the workload can cause some stress and getting used to. Most children can handle the discomfort and get used to this change in a few days or up to a few weeks, but for some youth the emotional distress can be overwhelming. To relieve this distress, a child or teen may begin to avoid school, in other cases they attend school but with much resistance and stress for the whole family during the morning routines, other youth skips classes, and small children may cry or become clingy when they arrive at school. Anxiety and stress can cause unexplained headaches, stomachaches, and other ailments which may make it hard for children to get to school on time in the morning or make it feel necessary to leave early.
Why is this happening?
Avoiding or trying to avoid school happens because children and teens don't want to feel the distressing emotions. When we avoid situations that cause the distress, we have immediate short-term relief. Some common reasons for school refusal are:
What can you do?
First and foremost, if your child or teen is complaining of aches, pains, stomach issues, heart issues etc. have them seen by a medical professional. If there are no medical causes for the symptoms it might be time to talk to your child. Ask them questions about their day, their thoughts, their feelings about school. Questions like
Speak to the school if there are things they can do to help.
Finally, introduce coping skills like breathing exercises, mindfulness, movement/exercise, spending time in nature, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, challenging thoughts, problem solving to name a few.
If you are doing everything you can to manage this problem and are not finding a lot of progress, reaching out to a local mental health professional for help might be the next step. If you would like to consult with me, feel free to call (905) 464-1029, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form below.