Teachers and parents around the world have all experienced children who refuse to go to school. It’s very common in younger children and in most cases, parents and school staff work together using a range of tried-and-tested methods to help support the child. Most children settle into a routine after a few days and things become easier. However, sometimes things don’t go to plan. Some older children and teenagers can become very unsettled and refuse to go into school.
There is a reason for this behaviour. The child isn’t choosing to be ‘naughty’. They are genuinely very unsettled and something that they value is under threat. They need to feel safe and they need to feel like they have been truly heard and understood. As adults we need to help the child. There are a number of ways to do this and few things we need to keep in mind. Here are seven ways that my experiences as a teacher, parent, headteacher and Emotional Logic Coach have taught me to deal with this.
- This will take time to sort out. It can’t be done in five minutes on the playground when you are in a rush to get to work, feeling angry or upset. You will need to plan in time to deal with this and you need to stay calm.
- When a child is behaving this way they are having what we would call a Shock Reaction. They don’t think that they have the resources to cope with whatever is going to happen in school. This can result in all sorts of physical responses, from aggression, to withdrawal and tears, to running away from school. Using the Emotional Logic technique can help untangle the jumble of emotions that they are experiencing.
- Don’t expect children to act like adults and deal with it in the way you would. They need to be taught how to do this. This takes time and patience. If you need support, we can help you with this.
- Children need to feel safe. They need safe places and safe people at school and at home. Just sitting down at the right time and going through this process will begin to help them feel safe, listened to and cared for.
- Children need to feel that they are truly heard. Use the Stepping Stone cards to explore how they feel when they think of coming into school. Don’t dismiss or try to quickly solve any of the issues raised. Listen carefully. Reflect back what you have heard and help them know that you understand how they feel (even if it sounds illogical to you).
- Ask our Smart question. ‘Now that I have to go to school, what is it I think I may lose? What can’t I do?’ Begin to build up a list of their losses. I have done this with many children and there are many similarities across age and gender; anxieties around what ifs, friendships, how intelligent they feel, what the teachers think of them, what would happen if they were to feel ill, who would they turn to if….?
- Use the loss list to explore what you can begin to change and what you will leave for now. If possible, include the school, parent and child in this plan. Schools where staff have been trained in Emotional Logic are perfectly placed to support children and parents with this technique.
Emotional Logic has been used many times to help children feel happier about attending school and to improve school attendance data. It doesn’t take long to learn and once you have a little knowledge you can pass it on to others to help them too. If you would like to find out more or if you would like support with a child who refuses to attend school, please contact us today.