It is Monday morning and your child is, once again, complaining about a stomach ache. It mysteriously vanishes the second you agree to let them stay at home. But two days later you hear the same complaint again.
If this is a recurring incident at home you can be sure it is not a physical ailment at all. It is a ruse your child is using to avoid school.
Some of the common reasons your child refuses to go to school may be the following:
- Adjusting with peer group: Simply put, they struggle to make friends. Or they could be experiencing bullying at school. This could be a short or long term issue.
- Coping with academics: Your child might be finding it difficult to cope with academics and evaluations, having had a relatively easy time at preschool.
- Toeing the line: Rules and regulations are new to them. Designated lunch hour, play hour and study time might be making them feel restricted.
- Experiencing separation anxiety: They might miss being with you and they worry about what they are missing out on by not being at home.
The key is not despairing but to turn things around for the better.
- Take the child to a doctor. This is for you to be reassured and to rule out the remote possibility that your child might have a physical ailment.
- Talk and communicate with your child. Talk to them about what is bothering them. However, you should make it explicit in your communication that the plan is to go back to school. Right now you are willing to support your child in conquering the problem. Ask open ended questions like, “What is the toughest subject at school?” “How did you learn this?” “What do you write from the board?” They might sometimes realize what the problem is, but not know how to ask for assistance. You could gently guide them as to how to ask the teacher for help.
- Make it unappealing to stay at home. If your child has complained of a stomach ache to avoid school then make sure that they stay in bed the whole day and give them simple food. Tell them that television and other toys are off limits when they are ill. If they claim to be better, make them go through their books and simulate a school environment at home. Make it clear to them that they do not get a free reign at home on school days.
- Take the teacher into confidence. Remember that your child’s teacher is a well wisher. Confide in her. She might be able to offer valuable insights to the problem and come up with solutions. For example, if your child has trouble making friends she could help them connect with other children. If they have academic issues she might be able to offer productive solutions.
Whether the issue is academic or social, there is always a solution to make things better. The aim is to reassure your child and help them grow into a confident and happy individual.