School Anxiety and School Refusal (Primary School)
School refusal or school anxiety can start for any number of reasons: it might be because your child is worried about school work, friends, bullying or bad things happening when they are not at home. It can even be triggered after a period of illness where your child has had to stay off school. For younger children, it might just be that they would rather stay at home with a parent, in which case the book "What to do when you don't want to stay Apart" (see below) will be really helpful.
It is often hard for your child to express why they feel the way they do and they may be worried about telling you if it involves others, but it is important that they are encouraged to talk so you can make a plan together. While avoiding school is understandable if it causes anxiety, it becomes very hard to go back to school once you’ve been off for a while. Parents need to try and tread the very fine line between being sensitive to their child’s needs and worries (and not dismissing them) , while being aware that avoidance tends to make the problem worse. There are several places that you can look to help you manage your child’s anxiety, your own emotional needs and find some practical advice below. See also the section on anxietyand thegeneral primary pagefor some resources on building confidence and resilience.
The first place to turn to is your child’s school. Find out from the school who is the best person to talk to. It may be the Special Educational Needs worker (SENCO), the Headteacher, the class teacher or the Head of Year.
Meesha Makes Friendsby Tom Percival. A beautifully illustrated book about Meesha who struggles to make friends - perfect for chidlren who struggle to navigate social situations.
Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe. A book about anxiety, self-esteem and friendship written by a primary school teacher. Available in your local library as part of the Reading Well scheme.
Overcoming School RefusalA practical guide for teachers, counsellors, caseworkers and parents by Joanne Garfi. Written by a psychologist who has spent 30 years helping children who school refusal, it is well indexed giving advice for parents and schools on how to tackle this issue.