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School Phobia – Recognizing Symptoms and Dealing With Underlying Problems

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School Phobia – Recognizing Symptoms and Dealing With Underlying Problems

One point or another in their lives, a child can develop school phobia for several reasons. This condition is marked by a number of symptoms that indicate a high level of stress and anxiety about different aspects of their school experience. Many parents and teachers may miss the signs of a potential mental health issue, or a call for help, and mistake it as a passing bug or the child being difficult.

Understanding School Phobia and School Refusal

Problems with school phobia can come on unexpectedly. The child may be totally happy with the school experience, and then suddenly refuse to go. This may be a result of some activity or event at school that makes the child feel inadequate or emotionally threatened in some way. Generally, children get over their school phobias if the parents are resolved about their attendance. However, some children grow increasingly worried and anxious about school. They may even become physically ill from the stress.
school phobia

Common Symptoms of School Phobia

The child may exhibit any one of the following symptoms, or several of the symptoms in tandem:

  • Frequent complaints of stomachaches, nausea, headaches, fatigue or diarrhea that can’t be attributed to a physical illness
  • Separation anxiety
  • Fear of the dark or of being alone
  • Excessive clinginess and demanding parents’ attention
  • Obsessive thoughts about safety, concerning themselves or others
  • Nightmares or other sleep problems
  • Exaggerated fears about monsters, animals, bad people or about school itself

While most of these symptoms are attributed to younger children, that does not mean your teen isn’t also experiencing anxiety. Students in middle and high school are more likely to have complaints of ailments without physical illness, and may potentially show a new disregard for class and assignments.

What Parents Can Do

School phobias and avoidance can be a frustrating problem for adults who attempt to talk to the child rationally about the problem. However, some school phobia problems will diminish over time, as the child becomes more engaged with activities and schoolmates. Parents can help children over the difficult periods with a few effective strategies:

  • Talk to the children’s teacher and request a closer one-on-one interaction with the child.
  • Discuss the child’s problem with the school nurse so that appropriate remedies can be taken during the day, enabling the child to return to class.
  • Take the child in for a thorough medical examination to eliminate the possibility of physical problems.
  • Have the child evaluated for learning problems.
  • Set up play dates with classmates to establish closer friendships.
  • Reassure the child about problems that may be occurring at home.
  • Car pool with other children to encourage relationships.
  • Read books with the child that encourage expression of feelings and conquering fears.
  • Teach relaxation techniques to help deal with fears.
    • Some teachers utilize a corner of the room, or a separate room, where students may quietly work through any stress and anxiety. Discuss with the teacher(s) what methods they have or are willing to try. Just because other parents have not brought the issue up, does not mean other students aren’t also suffering.
  • If necessary, take the child to a mental health counselor so they may privately and effectively work through their fears.

With these solutions, you can help your child overcome the tensions and anxieties that are becoming more common every year. Understanding and teaching effective coping skills can make a significant difference in a child’s ability to deal with these feelings.

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