By Marlena Rice
Fall is finally here: Hello cooler weather, back-to-school, and football! Parents who have gotten all too familiar with the easier flow of traffic from home to work are now readjusting their morning schedules to entertain the influx of school buses and University traffic that were easily forgotten during the summer months. As parents, as we adjust to our new schedules, our little people are adjusting as well. But with new schools, new classrooms, new teachers and new friends comes butterflies and anxiety that we may not be used to seeing in our children. See below a list of ways to combat “school refusal,” a common form of anxiety that many of our children experience, whether it is easily recognizable or not.
So what is school refusal? I think all parents have experienced excess clinging during morning drop-offs to school, avoidance, flat-out defiance and the good old-fashioned tantrum. In older children, this refusal may occur in terms of “not feeling well” in attempts to stay home, away from all things that are causing their anxiety (the fear of not knowing the correct answers in class, having to meet new friends, or even worries about who to sit with at lunchtime), as well as real physical symptoms, like stomachaches, or nausea.*
Usually, these childhood fears dissipate over the course of learning a new routine. We have to wake up a little bit earlier to avoid the additional school traffic on the road in the mornings, and our children have to adjust their minds to what is new in their lives before becoming comfortable.
How can we, as parents, help to combat school refusal?
· Don’t rush your mornings. Prepare lunches and backpacks the evening prior to bedtime and wake up just a little bit earlier in the mornings. This gives you time to eat breakfast with your child, talk about the day’s expectations and gives the child a chance to voice any concerns they may have.
· For little ones entering a schooling environment for the first time, adjust them to school in small doses. Once assigned a classroom and teacher, ask if you can start dropping your child in for a few hours a day to help them adjust.
· Talk with your children about their fears and feelings, and find solutions together for things that may cause them stress or concern. A good time to do this is during a family dinner when your child is relaxed and comfortable.
· Encourage playdates for little ones and extracurricular activities for older children. This will help them relax while being around people their age in a similar environment. Having your child build excitement over activities that are school-related will not only encourage them to like attending each morning, but it may very well make them more in tune with the classroom aspects of school.
· Most importantly, make yourself known at your children’s school. Know your child’s principals, directors, teachers and part-time aids. Not only is this a great way to let educators know just how involved you are, but your child will be proud that you are involved.
*While some of these symptoms are normal and affect a large majority of children, should you notice
your child not getting better, consult a mental health professional.*
Marlena Rice is a local mom and author. Her new book, “Pacifiers, Flatbeds and Barn Wood Thingamajigs, a 'Come to Jesus Guide' for the New, Southern Mom,” will be available on Amazon.com this fall. Follow Marlena on Instagram at marlena_rice.
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