School is a complex social setting for children even as young as pre-school. Peer interaction and teachers’ expectations can cause stress for many children. Additionally worry about a parent, in their absence, can also pre-occupy a child’s attention when they should be attending to their school responsibilities. A common way for your child to let you know there is something is not right in these areas is to start asking if they have to go to school.
Children sometimes have a hard time expressing these concerns specifically and may start to complain of headaches or stomachaches that necessitate them leaving school or staying home. Sometimes they are very clear in letting you know there is a problem and they simply refuse to get up to get ready for school. In either case, attendance gradually becomes a problem, grades fall and ultimately the problem that is causing the desire to avoid school is not addressed.
If your child begins to express a desire to skip school, it is important to take an inventory of what is going on in their life. Is there tension or arguing at home? Have they had a falling out with a friend at school? Do they report that other children are teasing or bullying them? Do they complain about teachers not being fair or feeling overwhelmed by their work? Open problem solving with your child on these issues can help them feel supported as they work toward a solution to their problem.
The most important aspect of treating school refusal is to insist that your child continue to attend as you work toward resolving their distress. The longer a child is out of school, the harder it will be for them to go back. Their perception of the problems can become distorted to the point that they feel they cannot handle addressing them. It is frequently helpful to let their school know of the difficulty you are having with attendance and that you are actively working on resolving the problem. Working as a team can reduce the chances that your child will face problems with truancy.
Some more helpful suggestions on school refusal can be found at these web sites: