For a child, even an older one, going to school might stink. It might be the torment of their day. Or it could be that waking up early and sitting still all day in class just isn’t what your kid is about. And that’s okay. Between 5% and 28% of kids exhibit reluctance to go to school at some point to the point of truancy or just flat out refusing to go. What is not okay, and detrimental to both your child and your family is indulging them in this desire.
Volunteering in the classroom, or offering home-schooling as an alternative is shown to prove to your child that they cannot face whatever it is that they are anxious about at school. Tests and friendships can be hard but it is part of life to face things that make us uncomfortable and to overcome them. Parents, naturally, want to shield their child from all distress, but doing so increases the child’s anxiety even more. When the child hits puberty, this anxiety can manifest itself in detrimental ways.
Research shows that children with untreated school refusal at ages 12 and 13 were more likely to be receiving psychological treatment and still be living with their parents 25 years later. This parental urge to protect your child from the anxieties of the world can weaken their ability to deal with issues as adults. When these children, who were indulged in their school refusal as a kid, go out on their own to college, they are less equipped to deal with their anxiety. Uncontrolled anxiety can lead to increased use of alcohol or drugs.
But all bad future consequences can stem from early development and can be prevented. Separation anxiety about little things (like walking to the school bus or being left alone at school) can make a child more unsettled during the day and more susceptible to other anxieties. Many children disguise this anxiety (either because they don’t know how to express it or out of fear) as illness. An easy way for a parent to tell whether the child is actually sick is if the illness “mysteriously” goes away over the weekend, or threatening a trip to the doctor.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, like that practiced by the Sachs Center, can be very beneficial to helping a child overcome school refusal early. Through this therapy, the children learn to master their fear and not let it control them. Building confidence in themselves and their abilities which will have lasting effects long past elementary or middle school. Working through these issues could not only work toward preventing alcohol and drug abuse at college but will produce a more confident and capable adult.