When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School

When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School

            It’s that time of year again. May is here and all of the long breaks are behind us for the school year. We are at the home stretch but can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet. School concepts, assignments, and other important parts of curriculum still have to be completed and with the changes in school schedules over the past few months, it feels like there is more than ever. Outside of school hours, spring activities are getting into full swing and schedules are usually just as hectic in the evenings and on the weekends as they are during school days.

This next stretch of all 5-day school weeks can feel long, and the next break isn’t until June when those final school bells ring for the summer.  Unsurprisingly, students might start to the feel the weight of this part of the school year but don’t have quite the same energy, motivation, or resources available anymore. When this happens, parents often notice bigger emotions at home, more difficult Sunday nights and/or Monday mornings, and get a little more push back when it comes to getting ready for school, doing homework, or even keeping up with the tasks they have been doing all year long.

But don’t panic! While we can’t change what the calendar says, we might be able to find ways to better meet our kids where they are at when they are feeling like they don’t want to go to school. Here are a few things to try out:

  1. Validate their feelings: The only thing harder than experiencing a difficult emotion is feeling like no one else understands it or has ever felt the same way.
  2. Empathize and Normalize: Share stories about times that you have felt the same way before, whether as a student or in current work or home life.
  3. Narrate: Describe the things you are seeing and hearing from your child. Make sure you understand what is happening for them from their perspective and have an accurate version of it. Don’t add details – just say what you see. Be a colour commentator! It’s a more helpful tool than you might expect.
  4. Use Emotions Language: Sure, maybe your kiddo is grumpy or irritable lately, but maybe they are ALSO anxious, worried, lonely, overwhelmed, or lack confidence. Find the words that fit for them and help them build that language into their vocabulary. Knowing our feelings and being able to communicate them is a lifelong skill.
  5. Find the Fun & Flexibility: We might not be able to let our kids miss school, but we can find ways to help them think about it so it’s not as challenging. And hey, maybe we can even find opportunities to make the end-of-the-school-year experience more fun. Plan special breakfasts, try new school snacks, leave them special notes in their room or bathroom when they wake up, or use rewards (if appropriate) to help them feel more motivated about school.
  6. Pick your Battles: Work with your child and their teacher to figure out what the most important things are to focus on as the school year comes to a close. Bring attention and effort to those things and let the other less important things slide when you can.
  7. Keep Consistent: Make sure to keep things consistent in areas that you can. Keep those bedtime routines on track, try to find opportunities for connection and quality family time, have screen and screen free down time, and when you can, prioritize your parental mental health.

If you need more help, or if you’re wondering if your child or youth’s struggles are part of a bigger issue, reach out to us, we are here to help!

Written by: Megan Adams Lebell, Registered Psychologist

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