School Smarts: Dealing with school phobias and what parents can - WDRB 41 Louisville News

School Smarts: Dealing with school phobias and what parents can do

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Not every child is excited about heading back to school. In fact, some children are scared about going back to class.  

Dr. Allan Josephson works with children suffering from school phobias at the U of L Physicians Bingham Clinic.  He says such phobias are fairly common and can occur at various times during a child's school career.

Fear of returning to school can be caused by difficulty separating from parents, concerns about academic and social performance, previous experiences of being bullied and even bullying related to food allergies.

Causes of School Phobia

-Separation from parents. Going to school for the first time can cause great anxiety for very young children.
-Bullying. If a child sees themselves as different, suffers from a medical condition or even has a food allergy, this can create a source of anxiety about potential bullying.
-Fear about fitting in at a new school or making friends. Moving or just starting a new school can bring out insecurities in kids.
-Anxiety about academic or athletic performance. Kids feel pressure to succeed just like adults do.  

Signs of School Phobia

Obvious. Crying, anxiety, nightmares.
Less obvious. Headaches, stomach pain, problems with eating or sleeping.
School refusal. A possibility, especially with older children.

What a Parent Can Do

-Talk with your child, asking open-ended questions about school. Let them tell what's bothering them when they are ready.
-Remind your child of a previous new beginning that caused anxiety but worked out well (e.g. a previous school experience).
-Talk to their teacher/guidance counselor.  
-Talk to your child's doctor. Some children need extra help during difficult transition times or extreme circumstances.
-Visit school prior to the start -- walk around the building and play on the playground. If the child's anxiety is very strong, you may want to contact the school to see if there is a way the child can meet their teacher and see their room.
-You may need to distract a particularly anxious child in the days leading up to starting school, so that they are not focused on their worries.  
-Send them to school with age-appropriate comfort items to help ease the transition.  

Allan Josephson, M.D.
U of L Physicians Bingham Clinic

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