During every school year I have encountered several children who develop school phobia, sometimes referred to as school refusal. They attend school at the beginning, but as the year progresses, it becomes difficult for parents to get them to school in the morning. I have found that the only way to solve this problem is through good detective work since each situation is unique.
The conventional wisdom regarding school phobia was always to get and keep the child in school at all costs. This attitude may have been a mistake. When a child cries and protests, it is important to determine why. Something may be very wrong at the school or at home. In this day of child abuse both at home and in school, children’s fears should be taken very seriously since there is always the genuine possibility that they are based on reality.
When parents are going through a separation and subsequent divorce, many young children develop school phobia. It does not take much detective work to discover the reason. They lost one parent and are afraid of losing the other while they are away at school and the remaining parent is out of their sight. Since young children are very concrete thinkers, it is difficult convincing them that a parent will not disappear if they are not watching. If it happened once, it could happen again. These children are helped by adults recognizing that their fears are legitimate and talking them over with the children. Telling them that they should not have those fears and that they should act like big boys and girls is not very helpful.
It is always best to determine if there is some problem when a child develops school phobia.