A growing number of children now struggle with a condition known as school refusal. As you prepare your children and teenagers to return to school you’re probably thinking about the practicalities of what they need. New uniforms and shoes, books and stationery, you’re considering how to keep them warm and fed.  But have you thought about their mental health?  School refusal occurs when a child becomes so distressed and anxious about attending school that they are unable to go.

What is school refusal?

It’s perfectly natural to have some level of anxiety about returning to school. It’s particularly common if your children are heading to a new school or transitioning from primary into secondary education. However for some children this anxiety becomes unmanageable.

It’s important to note there are significant differences between school refusal and truancy, although both mean the child is not attending school.  Truancy is often found alongside other behavioural issues. A child who is a school refuser or anxious about school will just simply not attend.

What you can do to help.

There are many things that you can do to help ease anxiety around school.  Pick a time when neither of you are stressed or in a rush and ask them what their fears are.  Perhaps there is a situation happening like bullying or miscommunication with a teacher that you can work together to solve.  Form an alliance with your child and brainstorm strategies that will help them feel more confident and in control as they head through the school gate.

Make mornings as fun as possible. Wake up in plenty of time so you’re not stressed or rushed in the morning and spend a little time with them if you can before dropping them off for the day.  Liaise with the school so they know what is happening, they may have educational psychologists they can put you in touch with who will help you develop further strategies to assist your child in school.

Mindfulness is an extremely effective tool to use for any kind of anxiety.  Encouraging your child to slow down and be in the here and now. This distracts them from worrying and overthinking about what might happen in the future. A very simple way of doing this is to encourage them to sit and colour, letting themselves become absorbed in the activity.  Teach your child to tune into their body and just be with their breath. As little as 5 minutes can be all it takes to transform them from anxious and tearful to calm and optimistic.

Hypnotherapy can help.

I regularly work with teens and their parents teaching skills to manage the anxieties of life. these can including school and school refusal, exams and just generally the stress of being a teenager.  Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we can bring some peace and calm to your family.