Children can have worries about a range of things, friends, teachers, uniform, change of year, a new school. Similarly, they might have worries about home. Worries can lead to not wanting to attend school. They might have tantrums, complain of physical illness, appeal to stay at home or threaten to harm themselves. What then can you do if your child refuses to attend?
Talk – the earlier the better or refusal could worsen. Timing and place are important, consider a place where your child will feel comfortable. Reassure they’re not in trouble, that you’re there to help. Give them time to talk and follow their pace. If your child is very young or conversation doesn’t flow perhaps use pens, crayons and paper to start the conversation e.g. by drawing, pictures can help.
Anxiety – you may be anxious too, so try and contain your own anxiety as this could influence and add to your child’s. Where possible, talk with your partner, a friend or family member about your child’s school refusal. Talking with another adult can help reduce your anxiety and put helping your child’s anxiety at the centre.
Routine – keep your routine consistent, for instance, your work routine, other children, bed and sleep times, preparing for school e.g. uniform and schoolbag. You might want to talk with your employer to see if they can adjust start times while you’re focused on getting your child to school.
Talk to your child’s school – do this as soon as possible. This can be difficult as you might feel exposed about family life, school’s want the best for your child, so it’s important to work together to share worries and concerns. Working together is important, as your child is more likely to see your care extend to the school and be similar when in school.
Home-School Book – these are a great way to communicate between home and school, to keep everyone informed about important information. They are another way for your child to see that you’re working together.
Reflection – your child might have previously refused to attend school, talking about previous experiences can remind them they have the resources to overcome their current worries.
Encouragement – don’t forget to praise your child along the journey. Children respond well to praise and encouragement, praise the steps along the journey of improved attendance.
A Buddy – your child’s school might be able to pair your child with a buddy, perhaps someone they know, or a child from an older year group. A buddy can be a great way to help with refusal as they can help reduce their worries by having someone they know at the school gate to greet them.
Most important is for you to feel that you’re not alone, support is available. Your child’s school will have a range of support e.g. teachers, pastoral care staff, SENCo and know of where to get help if the concern becomes more difficult.