A parent is worried about her child who doesn’t want to return to school in September. Do you have any advice to share in this week’s A Problem Shared?
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My 7 year-old doesn’t want to go back to school in September. We moved here last year and she hasn’t settled. She says she doesn’t have any friends, she doesn’t like the teacher and that she hates it there. I have talked to the school but things didn’t get better for her.
She has been home now for a couple of weeks for the summer holidays and it’s like she’s a new person. She’s happy and confident and I want her to be like this all the time. What can I do?
Our FamilyPoint advice for a child refusing to go back to school
Hi, and thanks for getting in touch with us here at FamilyPoint about your concerns for your daughter’s unhappiness. It is understandable that the happy and confident daughter you now have over the summer holidays is the one you want to see leaving for school every day.
Some parents might think that a fresh start at a new school might be the answer to this problem, and of course sometimes that does work. However your daughter has only recently started here so perhaps it might be worth persevering before considering that option. On-going communication is key here, with both your daughter and the school.
Now that the holidays are here you will have more quality time with your daughter. Often as parents we are so busy during term time. Our children come home from school and before you realise you’re putting them to bed. Perhaps you could take this opportunity to try and find out from your daughter what exactly is making her so unhappy in school. Try and use open ended questions so that she has to give you more detail. Questions that can be answered with a yes or no often tell us very little. For example:
- If you could make school any way you wanted it, how would you make it?
- If you could choose anybody you know to be your teacher, who would it be, and why?
- What would you do to make playtime the very best it could be?
- If you could choose anybody to be your friend who would it be and why?
Ask these questions when your daughter is feeling relaxed, happy, safe and loved. The answers she gives you could help explain what is making her so unhappy and could give you a starting point in your discussions with the school in September if her feelings continue.
Dealing with anger
If your daughter does highlight issues that you feel you could help her with, for example she finds herself getting angry about the poor behaviour of others in her class, or she is struggling with the work that she’s given, then the 6 week summer holidays could be a perfect time to address those issues. Perhaps you could teach your daughter anger management strategies to deal with that anger or invest in some workbooks that you and your daughter could complete together to improve her confidence.
In addition to this, would it be possible to build on that home/school link by arranging play dates with other children in her class or having them over to your home over summer? Having fun together over the summer holidays can give children something to look forward to telling the others in their class when they return.
Making school fun
When your daughter does return to school, try and make it as exciting as possible. Include her in the hunt for a new bag, uniform, pencil case etc. Maybe encourage her to join after school clubs so that she can start to look forward to going. Make the journey to school fun by playing games like ‘I Spy’ or ‘I went to the shop and I bought…’. Perhaps encourage her to find enough games that you can play a new one every week!
Talk to the school
Once back in school however, if the problem does continue, talk to her teacher. Her teacher will want her to be happy. If it’s possible, maybe you could volunteer at the school showing your daughter that it’s a place you like to be. This of course might also give you the chance to observe your daughter at playtimes. You would be able to see how your daughter is interacting with others. If you identify a problem, with her or indeed other children in the way they are socialising (or not if the case may be) then perhaps you could bring this to the attention of the head teacher. Perhaps they could set up a buddy scheme to help all those who are isolated at playtime.
I hope that some of these ideas will help. Take care and enjoy your summer holidays together.
The FamilyPoint Team 🙂
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
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