School refusal in children hints at a bigger problem

School refusal in children hints at a bigger problem

Every child resists going to school on some days due to a variety of reasons. Most people can cope with the challenge, provided the absenteeism due to a minor complaint is not a regular affair. However, some children deny going to school consistently due to bigger issues, such as escaping from an unpleasant school situation, getting attention from others or escaping from performance situations, etc., which could be the sign of anxiety-related disorder.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety-based school refusal affects nearly 2-5 percent of school-going children. The disorder develops when a child experiences excessive anxiety when going away from home or separating from people with whom he or she has a strong emotional attachment. Such a child is often found complaining of stomachaches, headaches, nausea, or diarrhea, just before leaving for school.

What triggers school refusal behavior?

For some parents, it is easier to identify the reason behind their child’s reluctance to go to school, but for many others, their child’s school refusal behavior might be vague and difficult to understand. A child might develop school-refusing behavior due to the following factors:

  • Excessive attachment with family members
  • A physical ailment
  • Anticipated physical health issue
  • Poor physical health
  • Attention-seeking behavior
  • Bullying
  • Unjustified fear

Identifying signs of problematic patterns in school children

Often associated with comorbid psychiatric conditions such as anxiety or depression, school refusal is a serious problem in children that requires appropriate intervention to prevent further predicament. Although the assessment of such behavioral issues might be difficult at times, but it is not impossible to treat the condition provided a collaborative approach is followed including physician, parents, mental health expert and school staff.

First, it is important to identify the symptoms associated with school refusal and any underlying psychiatric condition before taking any curative measures. Listed below are some of the warning signs of school refusal behavior in children:

  • Anxiety or panic attacks and depression
  • Addiction to illicit drugs or alcohol
  • Poor performance at school
  • Fatigue and frequent complains such as headache and stomachache
  • Violent behavior
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Social problems

Helping a child with school refusal behavior

Anxiety-based absenteeism is often a symptom of a deeper problem, therefore, it is important for doctors to make an accurate assessment and prescribe effective treatment. Fortunately, these issues can be effectively tackled by encouraging children to talk about their fears openly and by helping them differentiate between anxiety, fear and phobias.

Here are a few simple ways in which parents can help their children overcome their fears about attending school:

  • Reassuring the child that they are with him or her, even during the school hours
  • Being kind and generous to the child
  • Being aware about the school environment, and the way their child is being treated
  • Avoiding questioning the child about his or her condition
  • Arranging for some sessions with school officials or the child’s physician
  • Accepting that the child is facing trouble or dealing with anxiety
  • Encouraging the child to openly discuss his or her troubles
  • Helping the child build self-confidence
  • Emphasizing on the positive aspects of attending school

Recovery road map

It is important to seek professional help when the situation of avoiding school by a child does not improve, even after incorporating self-help strategies. However, development of treatments is mostly based on an understanding of physiological processes but the psychological factors also need to be looked into with equal depth and understanding.

If you know somebody who is dealing with anxiety disorder, get in touch with the Anxiety Treatment Centers of California to know about the best facilities offering treatment for anxiety-related disorders. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-972-9459 or chat online to get information about the best anxiety disorders treatment centers in California.


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