School Refusal

What is school refusal?

School refusal, or school avoidance, is a term used to describe the signs or anxiety a school-aged child has and his or her refusal to go to school. School refusal isn’t naughty children trying to avoid lessons, it’s an anxiety disorder which can bring on physical symptoms.

What are the signs of school refusal?

While every child is different, the following are some of the behaviors that may be present in your child:

  • The child may complain of other symptoms, such as a stomachache or headache, that get better as soon as the child is allowed to stay home.
  • The child may tell you that he or she is anxious or afraid of a certain situation that happens at school.
  • The child may not want to leave the parent because of a change in the life of the child, such as the following:
    • New school
    • Just moved
    • New brother or sister
    • Sick brother, sister, or parent
    • Divorce
    • Death in the family

Management of school refusal

Since every child is unique, each situation will be handled on an individual basis. The most effective form of treatment is reported to be a combination of behavioural and cognitive therapy for an average period of 6 months. The following are some of the interventions that may be used to help your child:

  • Return the child to school. Make sure the school officials understand the situation and do not send the child home for the wrong reasons.
  • Consider family counseling if other problems exist.
  • Allow the child to speak and talk about his or her concerns and fears.
  • Slowly separating the parent from the child in school may also be used. One approach is to have the parent sit with the child in the classroom at first, and then the parent may attend school, but sit in another room. Next, the parent may continue to get farther away.
  • If the child has an underlying problem, treatment with drugs may be offered to help alleviate depression, panic and anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
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Dr Somanath CP

Dr Somanath is a leading and eminent psychiatrist based in Kochi. He did his MBBS at Medical College Kottayam and post graduation in psychiatry from NIMHANS Bangalore. He has 20 years of experience in the field of psychiatry and worked as faculty in NIMHANS, SH Hospital Painkulam, Thodupuzha, Child Care Centre Gandhinagar and Lakeshore hospital Kochi. His current research interests are Genetics of Psychiatric disorders, Developmental disorders in children, psychosomatic medicine, Health education & Public awareness programme.

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