Thanks for your good advise. It’s really helping. We have hit a stumbling block as my son refuses to go to school and this keeps happening. We have taken away all privileges (phone computer TV, etc) He then went and punched his younger brother and hurt him for no reason whilst he was sitting peacefully to bait a reaction from me. When I asked why his answer was that he just did. I then extended the discipline saying that it would start again tomorrow. Today again he refused to go to school. However the issue that worries me at the moment is that I see that he has been taking some sleeping pills as he says that he can’t sleep at night. I am really worried and do not Know what to do. He is very angry at us and explosive all the time. The first two weeks have been going really well and then It started all other again.
Emotional distress about attending school may include anxiety, temper tantrums, depression, or somatic symptoms. Parents are aware of absence, but the child often tries to persuade parents to allow him or her to stay home.
During school hours, the child usually stays home because it is considered a safe and secure environment. The child is unreasonably scared of going to school, might pretend to be sick or say he or she doesn't want to go to school, and usually wants to stay home because he or she feels safe there.
Children with school refusal are scared to go to school. They may be so scared that they won't leave the house. School refusal is most common in 5- and 6-year-olds and in 10- and 11-year-olds, but it can start at any age.
The problem might start after a child has been home for awhile, such as after a holiday, summer vacation, or brief illness. It also might happen after a stressful event, such as moving to a new house or the death of a pet or relative.
Children who won't go to school often say they feel sick. They might wake up and say they have a headache, stomachache, or sore throat. If they stay home from school, the "illness" might go away, but it comes back the next morning before school.
Children who refuse to go to school may worry about the safety of their parents or themselves. They may not want to be in a room by themselves, and they may be scared of the dark. They also may have trouble falling asleep by themselves and might have nightmares.
Parents can do several things to control school refusal before it becomes a routine, troublesome behavior.
Firmly getting the child to school regularly and on time will help. Not prolonging the goodbyes can help as well. Sometimes it works best if someone else can take the child to school after the parent or caregiver says goodbye at home.
It truly helps to believe that the child will get over this problem; discuss this with the child (the parent or caregiver needs to convince himself or herself of this before trying to convince the child).
Listening to the child's actual concerns and fears of going to school is important. Some of the reasons for refusing to attend school may include another child at school who is a bully, problems on the bus or carpool ride to school, or fears of inability to keep up with the other students in the classroom; these issues can be addressed if they are known. On the other hand, making too big a deal of school refusal may promote the child's behavior to continue.
Supportive counseling is often made available at school in these circumstances so as to minimize reinforcement of school avoidant behaviors and to prevent secondary gain from school refusal and should be encouraged for any student who wishes to have it. If the child simply refuses to go to school, some parents have found that decreasing the reward for staying home helps, for example, do not allow video games or television, or find out what work is being done in the school and provide similar education at home, when possible. This is especially if the "illness" seems to disappear once the child is allowed to stay at home.
The parent or caregiver should reassure the child that he or she will be there upon the child's return from school; this should be repeated over and over, if necessary. Let the child know that the parent or caregiver will be doing "boring stuff" at home during the school day. Always be on time to pick the child up from school if you provide transportation rather than a school bus.
Mark Hutten, M.A.