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Anxiety Children

This is something that I am hearing more and more from parents these days and I guess it’s not surprising at the moment is it – with all that’s going on with the pandemic and lockdown!

We would always think that the term “school refusal” was more linked to children who were playing truant – giving us a picture of children and teens hanging out in the park or hiding in their bedrooms playing games on their consoles. So we have to remember now that “school refusal “ doesn’t mean “ playing hooky” anymore – it means the child has a severe phobia about either going to school, being at school or participating in certain aspects of school life.

Seeing a pattern emerging

I’m sure every one of us has resisted going to school on the odd occasion – I know I did – especially when it was PE day! However, school refusal is a pattern of behaviour that can end up being a real problem for the child, the parents and indeed the rest of the family.

If your child is showing signs of not wanting to go to school or go back to school once we are back to “normality” (whatever that may be!) look out for the following signs:

  • Does the child show signs of anxiety the minute he wakes up on a school day, but not at the weekend?

  • How strongly does your child resist going to school?

  • Is your child often distressed by the time he gets to school?

  • Does your child go to school but is nearly always late because he is resisting?

  • Does your child feign sickness to stay off school?

  • Is your child’s resistance to going to school affecting the day-to-day family life?

  • Has the resistance been going on for some time?

  • Does your child constantly ask to see the school nurse?

  • Does your child constantly text home?

Very often, children who are struggling with school refusal will begin to say they have a headache or tummy ache. Anxiety does show itself in different ways, both physical and mental, so these symptoms could be very real to them. The first thing to do is obviously to rule out any physical (medical) problems and take them to the GP to get them checked out.

Occasionally, when a child is being “school phobic”, it is nothing more than a flash in the pan – and it can be easily put right. Perhaps the child has been off sick with something and is just feeling anxious about returning to school, he may be worried about the work he has missed. These little problems can be put right fairly quickly by explaining to the child that the teacher KNOWS he’s been sick and will need a bit of time to catch up – communication is key here! But the most important thing is to get the child back to school as quickly as possible and not prolong the agony!

But what could be causing my child to be so anxious?

There may be various reasons he is feeling anxious and refusing to go to school. These are some of the more common ones:

  • Bullying

  • Separation anxiety

  • Learning difficulties

  • Scared of speaking in front of the class

  • General anxiety


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