fear of school

5 Things That Make Kids Scared to Go to School

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I sat in my sixth-grade social studies class looking at the clock. Two minutes until the bell. I knew I was going to pass him in the hallway. What is he going to do to me—humiliate me, intimidate me, hit me, make fun of me? All of the above? One minute. Maybe he won’t notice me today. Wishful thinking. Breathing heavily, I tried to think through how I would respond to all of the possible scenarios. Bell. I got up, swallowed hard, and moved out into the hallway to accept my fate.

That was my life for most of sixth grade. Every morning, I was afraid to go to school. I hated it. Snow days, holidays, and sick days were my only escape. Does your child have a fear of school? There’s probably a good reason. Here are 5 things that give kids a fear of school—and what you can do about it.

1. Bullies and Teasing

There is nothing more terrifying than having to face a bully day in and day out. It makes life miserable and has an exhausting effect on a kid’s confidence and self-worth. In addition, a little teasing can be dealt with, but kids are merciless. Many are looking for attention without even knowing how much pain they’re causing. If your child is being bullied, you need to intervene with the school.

2. A Difficult Teacher

A teacher may be a difficult person to deal with or may be academically challenging. I’ll never forget a teacher who would make fun of me and call me out in front of everyone when I messed up. It didn’t help that it was at a time when my self-confidence was low. Help your kids navigate their relationships with their teachers. You may even need to meet with their teachers to discuss it.

Remind your kids that we are all wired differently, excelling in some things and laboring in others.

3. Feeling Dumb

Several of my friends were dyslexic growing up and that always made them feel insecure at school. Even years after working with specialists to help correct their dyslexia, the insecurity continued. Struggling in school, falling behind, or dealing with a challenging learning disability can feel embarrassing to kids. They immediately assume it means they’re stupid. When they admit to struggling in school or if their report card simply reveals it, we need to reassure them that they’re not dumb. Remind your kids that we are all wired differently, excelling in some things and laboring in others.

4. New Environment

When I was in fifth grade, my family moved to a new city. It was a tough transition. Although there wasn’t anything wrong with my new school, I hated it because it wasn’t my old one. I did everything I could to go home. A new environment can be a lot for a kid. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as moving. A new classroom or schedule can be enough to drive fear into any child. Validate the difficulty in acclimating to new places and people. Let them know that things will get better over time.

5. School Shootings

I don’t know why this is happening so often and I don’t know the best solution. All I know is our kids are fearful (for good reason) every day about the possibility of this happening at their schools. We need to alleviate that fear somehow. I’ll be honest—I’m not sure what to tell my kids, but I think simply telling them not to be afraid doesn’t quite cut it. What do you tell your kids?

Sound off: What are some other possible reasons kids have a fear of school?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is your favorite thing about school? What is one thing you don’t like?”