|Parenting and Behavioural Issues
: School Avoidance
School avoidance (school refusal or school phobia) occurs in 5
percent of children. With patience and by trying to understand
why the child fears school the problem can be overcome. Remember,
the school phobic child is going through a hard time and needs
all of your support. Working in concert with the school is important
What causes school avoidance or phobia?
For young children school means spending a lot of time away from
home. Not only do children miss home in the school setting, but
they are faced with new experiences, challenges and pressures
(both social and academic). Some children adapt very nicely into
the new environment yet others miss home, a source of anxiety
and fear. In some children home or family factors can play a role;
For example if there is an illness in the child or family, a recent
divorce/separation or if one parent is stressed or depressed.
These situations may either cause school phobia or worsen it.
Symptoms or signs of school refusal
Not surprisingly school refusal symptoms occur most often on school
days, and are usually absent on weekends and during the summer
holidays. The obvious signs of school refusal include:
Refusal to attend school
Creating reasons why not to go to school
Missing a lot of school
Frequent complaints about not feeling well with vague or non-specific
In rare cases, school phobic children can complain of chronic
physical symptoms including headaches, abdominal pain, nausea
or dizziness. When these complaints are medically evaluated there
usually is no medical cause found.
Reasons for school avoidance or school phobia
Most school-avoiding children do not know why they are school-phobic,
and may have difficulty talking about the source of their anxiety.
Aside from difficulty in separating from parents there are some
other school-related factors that can cause school avoidance including:
Fear of failure
Teasing by other children
Anxieties over toileting in a public bathroom
A perception that teacher and other school personnel are "mean"
Threats of physical harm (as from a school bully) or actual physical
Existing learning difficulties or disabilities
Non-school related causes may include the loss of a loved one
through death, divorce or moving to another locale and other home
problems or situations.
Dealing with school avoidance
There is no one magic cure or fix. The most important aspect of
dealing with a school phobic child is to find out what the underlying
cause is. Although the cause may be directly school related, in
some cases it has to do with home, personal or family issues.
Once the cause has been identified, it is then easier to try to
plan a "customized" approach to help the child. At times it may
necessary to involve not only the school personnel, but a pediatrician
and even a psychologist. The good news is though, that with age,
school phobia does improve, and is much less common in older children.
Other Parenting and Behavioural Issues
The information provided in this site is
designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to
replace the advice and care of your child's physician, nor is
it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If
you suspect that your child has a medical condition, always
consult a physician.
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