Children with symptoms of school-related anxiety, or those who avoid or refuse school attendance experience a barrier to being successful in school. Without proper intervention, these issues can have a significant effect on the student’s chance for success. I have included some parent information and strategies below (obtained from alexianbrothershealth.org).
Possible Symptoms of School Anxiety/Avoidance Behaviors
- Child is upset about school more often than other children their age
- Child’s feelings/attitudes towards school have changed negatively
- Child avoids certain aspects of school, (i.e. gym class, certain teachers, etc.)
- Certain behavior patterns occur only on school days
- Child exhibits stomach aches, headaches, throwing up, etc. especially on school days
- Child struggles with social skills and peer relations
- Child struggles to complete academic tasks and becomes easily overwhelmed with home and school assignments.
Strategies for Parents
- Make school attendance mandatory unless your child has a fever or contagious illness. Avoid calling your child out of school unless absolutely necessary. Children cannot deal with their school issues unless they are present at school. A child’s anxiety will increase the more school is avoided.
- If a child refuses to attend school, contact school personnel and report the child’s refusal to attend school, even if it results in a unexcused absence. Allow the child to have consequences from school for unexcused absence.
- Establish and maintain open communication with school personnel regarding your child’s feelings about school, difficulties with school, etc.
- Create an environment at home that fosters structure and consistency. Expectations should include rules, chores, privileges and limits. This will allow children to learn to structure themselves, as well as understand rewards and consequences. Likewise, expectations should be clear regarding school attendance and homework, as well as privileges and consequences given for not meeting expectations. Based on research, structure, routine and consistency are effective in alleviating anxiety in children.
- Routine is essential for children with school anxiety/avoidance issues. A daily schedule that is followed consistently through the year both when the child is in school as well as out of school is beneficial.
- Encourage children to enroll in school extracurricular activities to feel more connected to school. Have child choose at least one activity per school term.
- Provide positive feedback for successes made at school.
- Seek support from school and/or external resources when your child first starts displaying symptoms of school anxiety/avoidance.
- Negative peer relations may result in school avoidance/anxiety issues. Contact the school social worker if your child is struggling with peer relations, i.e. bullying, difficulty getting along with peers, etc. Therapeutic intervention on the school level may be needed.