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Child Cries About Going to School

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Question

I have a problem with my son who is seven years old. He is in first grade and for three weeks he has been crying every morning. He says school is too long and he misses me alot. I have talked to the teacher and a social worker at his school and they say he is fine when he gets to school. I am extremly concerned and do not know what to do. Could you please give me any suggetions on how I should handle it? I am to the point that I am ready to take him to a child therapist.

Answer

It's good that you are taking him to school every day even though he is crying. That's tough, but it's really the best way to help him through it. Any of a number of things could be going on with him; but since he is doing well while at school, the problem with crying at home should ease over the next few weeks. Sometimes kids have a bout with school anxiety after the holidays or summer vacation.

Without interrogating him, see if you can pick up some clues about what is worrying him. Sometimes you can pinpoint a certain trigger for the anxiety. Often it is a combination of factors at home and school that lead to the anxiety related to school avoidance. Stresses at home may lead him to worry about leaving you. Or, fears and worries about certain aspects of school may be the triggers.

If you think that he has overheard something at home that has him worried, find some ways to reassure him that you are just fine. Don't oversympathize when he says he misses you. Instead, be matter-of-fact about going to school while you maintain good structure and familiar routines at home.

Ask him about a variety of activities at school. Does he worry about going to the bathroom? Is there an atmosphere of strict punishment in the school or classroom? Does he have playmates in his class? Are there problems with bullies? Again, don't interrogate him about school. Simply talk about his day and listen for clues that might tell you why "school is too long".

If the problem continues or worsens, by all means, take him to a child therapist. You don't want to let his anxiety build without addressing it. School avoidance can have serious consequences in the short and long term. He's young and he misses you; that's understandable. But, crying every morning isn't good for anyone. If it continues, a good counselor can make a world of difference for you and your child.

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