Fear of school may develop in a child who has just started school or because of a problem the child is facing at school. Many children with fear of school will experience symptoms such as stomach ache, dizziness, head ache and nausea as the time to start school approaches. In addition to these somatic symptoms, they may look unhappy, cry, scream or display irritability. Once children with this issue are at school, they may throw temper tantrums, vomit, or cry for hours. You will be able to observe all these symptoms fading away once the school day has ended.
In the case of school phobia, which is usually triggered by a traumatic incident, the goal is to find out what the incident was. If an otherwise happy, relaxed child suddenly displays fear of school, the situation or incident causing this change should be determined. You should investigate all potential sources of the problem such as school friends or teachers. We should remember that children are individuals and that they can become frustrated when they feel that their emotions are not being recognised and understood. A child who has just started school and is still developing social skills may have difficulties resolving problems without parental aid, forming friendships and understanding others. Also, the child may not have developed an understanding of why they are going to school and may not want to be separated from their mother. Children with school phobia may suffer a loss of appetite, a sudden, strong aversion to school, or disturbed sleep patterns. If you observe any of these symptoms, you should consult a professional.
General points to be considered are:
- Avoid critical behaviour such as frightening, threatening, and humiliating children and comparing them with other children
- Understand the child’s situation and take their emotions (anxiety, fear) seriously
- Involve all family members in supporting the child
- Don't forget the importance of the teacher’s relationship with the child
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