School Phobia

Health Writer

School Phobia can severely impact a child's education and social life. It is thought to

stem from separation anxiety, a fear of leaving home. A child may lack the confidence to handle stress and problems without parent's help.

Although often stemming from separation anxiety, school phobia can also be caused by problems dealing with a bully, a personality conflict with a teacher, a difficult class, a learning disability or other social problems in school.

Many times, children will have vague physical symptoms. They may appear to worsen as the time to leave for school gets closer. Some common complaints may be;

  • Stomachache
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

How Parents Can Help

C.S. Mott Children's Hospital offers some suggestions for parents to help their child dealing with school phobia;

Send Your Child to School Every Day. Confronting fears is the best way to overcome them. Allowing your child to stay home will make it harder for them to return. Reassure your child each morning, but be firm that school is important and staying home is not an option.

Don't feed into complaints about physical symptoms. Asking your child how they feel will give them the idea that they can control the situation and gain your sympathy. If your child is up and getting ready for school, they are probably able to go to school. Even if your child is late, you should still bring them to school.

Make a doctor's appointment if your child does not to stay home from school. If your child is exhibiting new symptoms or you feel they are too ill to go to school, call your family doctor and make an appointment for the same day. Working closely with your doctor will insure your child will be able to return to school as soon as possible.

Talk with the school nurse. Let school personnel know what is going on. Ask the nurse to allow your child to lie down for a few minutes if feeling ill and then go back to class.

Use weekends and school holidays to talk with your child. Don't initiate discussions during the school week as this can increase fears. Instead, wait for times when your child will not be going to school and discuss any problems that may be occurring in school.

Some Reasons a Child Should Stay Home

  • A fever of 100 degrees or more
  • Vomiting (more than one time)
  • Diarrhea (frequently)
  • Coughing that will interfere with your child or other children learning
  • Rash of unknown reason
  • Earache
  • Toothache
  • Pink eye
  • Strep Throat

In addition, if your child needs antibiotics, ask your doctor when they will be able to return to school once the medication has started.

When to Contact a Doctor for School Phobia

Sometimes, you will not be able to manage your child's anxiety on your own and will need professional help. If your child is refusing to go to school or complains of symptoms for more than 1-2 weeks, you should contact your physician. In addition, if school phobia continues to recur several times, it is time to call your doctor and seek their advice.

Remember, as the parent, you know your child best. You can probably tell if complaints and symptoms are a result of emotions or if your child is sick. If you feel that your child has a physical problem, speak with your doctor.

Watch your child, without making a fuss, in other activities to look for signs of excessive worry, anxiety, fears or depression. Children can suffer from anxiety and there are behavioral treatments available to help your child overcome their fears.

Your physician is available to help should you be concerned about your child's emotional or physical health.