The fear of school, often known as school phobia, is defined as an illogical fear of going to school, that is, a fear that arises for no apparent cause, of getting on the school ground. As a consequence, students affected by this phobia are unable to pass the gate of their school on a physical and psychological level. It is critical to provide children who are suffering from it with psychological follow-up in order to help them recuperate.
What is fear of school and how does it manifest itself?
Fear of school refers to a circumstance in which a kid or adolescent expresses an illogical fear of going to school and refuses to go. This pathological state is not classified as a disease by the World Health Organization. However, the symptoms are similar to those of people with severe anxiety. This disorder often results in the child’s expulsion from school as well as social isolation. When faced with this predicament, parents are often unable to intervene.
Fear of school should not be confused with the circumstance in which a kid drops out of school owing to demotivation, indifference, or some other difficulty, but is still physically able to enter the establishment normally.
It is important to understand that school fear is absolutely beyond the child’s control. Typically, the child wants to attend school but is unable to do so due to a variety of factors. The reasons for this condition are many and as diverse as the number of persons who suffer from it.
Fear of school symptoms
Fear of school does not strike abruptly but rather develops gradually. It often starts with tears on the first day of school, a knot in the stomach on Monday morning, or headaches on Sunday evening or after returning from vacation.
A nasty comment from a teacher, the loss of a loved one, a scenario of bullying, or any other triggering event might cause this condition to appear, reactivating the anxiety that had been dormant before. After a while, this fear transforms into a phobia of the school environment, and the youngster is no longer able to access the school grounds.
The following are anxiety symptoms associated with school phobia:
- Pain in the abdomen;
- Disruptions of sleeping patterns;
- Panic attacks;
The diagnosis of the fear of school is straightforward. Indeed, the symptoms and the environments in which they manifest themselves are quite indicative. However, what is more difficult for health professionals is identifying and understanding the processes of this school phobia in order to tailor the treatment they provide.
Who is affected by school phobias?
You should know that fear of school affects both good and bad students and can be triggered by a variety of circumstances.
Keep in mind that some children suffer from learning disabilities, such as dyslexia , dysphasia or even dyspraxia. If these have not been spotted early enough, the child is then likely to suddenly develop a fear related to the matter in which the disorder is manifesting. Thus, the dyslexic will be afraid of dictations while the dyscalculic will be afraid of mathematics tests. This is not a generalized fear of school. The child will be able to go school normally and may experience the fear only in the situations triggering situations.
Like all other phobias, the fear of going to school is a legitimate psychiatric disorder that needs professional evaluation and treatment.
In an ideal situation, treatment would begin as soon as possible and would be based on psychotherapy. The latter requires great family involvement in conjunction with school resources. In the most extreme circumstances, such as when a kid has been absent from school for many months, hospitalization in a child psychiatric facility may be required.
How to react if your child has a fear of school?
Refusal to go to school can happen at any time. If this happens to your child, here is what you can do to help them get through this difficult time.
Insist that your child goes to school
Don’t think their anxiety will go away on its own. Encourage them to face their fears while reassuring him. Let him know that it is normal to have fears, that he is able to face them, and that you are there for him. Team up with his or her teacher to be your ally in this situation.
Get to know your child’s fears
Try to determine the cause of your child’s fear of school and help them recognize them emotions. Ask them questions, without pushing too hard, but stay tuned. It is important not to make fun of them and not to deny their fears. Do not hesitate to contact their teacher if you need more explanation to elucidate the nature of the problem.
Make time for them to discuss their fear
Set a time in the day when they can talk to you about their fears. Invite them to respect this moment, and take the opportunity to reassure them. By offering this opportunity to your child, you allow him to express his fears without them invading his daily life. Then help him find solutions.
Help them relax
Help them find ways to relax and deal with their emotions and stress. If all risk of illness has been ruled out, don’t give too much importance to their complaints about physical ailments.
Encourage positive thoughts
Try to target negative thoughts with them and help them replace them with positive ones.For example, you can take a piece of paper on which you will write down what your child can do that is fun at school (eg: learning new things, making new friends , playing new games…). You can also help them change the way they think. For example, for a child who says that they are afraid of not doing anything, you can get him to verbalize instead that it is important to do the best you can.
Praise their success
Praise your child when they are successful in facing their fear of school. Tell them you are proud of them. Another way to encourage them is to establish a positive reinforcement system by giving them, for example, a ball or a sticky note whenever they are ready to go to school on time. They can then exchange them for a privilege.
Try to stay calm
If you show anxiety, stress, or frustration, you may make your child even more anxious.
When you talk to them about school, be assertive and don’t leave room for doubt. Say, for example, “Get ready for school”, rather than “Are you ready for school?”. Use “when” instead of “if”.
Avoid making staying home fun
If they are unable to go school, make some rules and stay firm so you don’t make the day at home inviting. Do not allow television, video games or any other pleasurable activity. Make them do homework. Above all, don’t let this situation drag on. If necessary, you can ask for help from professionals.