Does Your Child Hate School? Here’s How to Help
Does your child refuse to go to school in the morning, regularly fake illness to stay at home, or spend hours sobbing on Sunday evening? It’s hard to watch your child suffer, and you might feel powerless to help. Luckily, there are usually some simple changes you can make to improve your child’s school experience. They might never love school, but they don’t need to hate every second of it either.
1. Figure Out Exactly What They Dislike
No two kids are the same, and their reasons for hating school can be extremely varied. One child might despise school dinners, while another might be anxious about making friends. Try sitting down with your child and making two lists together. The first should be, ‘Things I Like About School,’ followed by, ‘Things I Dislike About School.’ This helps both of you gain clarity, and lets you know which steps you should take next.
Once your lists are complete, lay out some concrete steps that you will take to try and improve things. For example, if your child is worried about failing maths, you could agree to practice together three nights a week. If they’re upset about falling out with a friend, arrange playdates with other children to broaden their social circle. Go back to the lists every few weeks to see if anything has changed. Having things in writing makes it much easier to take action and shows children that you’re taking them seriously.
2. Make Sure They Aren’t Being Bullied
Has your child suddenly started objecting to school for no apparent reason? If they seemed to enjoy school before, there’s a chance they’re being bullied or picked on by other children. Kids can often be embarrassed by bullying, or worried that telling a parent will make things worse. It’s important to assure your child that you won’t tell anyone about the situation without their permission.
If your child is comfortable with you doing so, talk to their teacher and ask them to monitor the situation. For issues like mild teasing, you could help your child come up with coping strategies – for example, playing with other friends or ignoring bullies. Encouraging activities which boost your child’s self-esteem can also be helpful, and this could mean joining extra-curricular clubs or taking part in sports.
3. Help Them With Difficult Subjects at Home
School isn’t much fun when you’re struggling to understand difficult subjects or feeling like you’re miles behind all your classmates. If your child dislikes school because they’re finding a particular subject hard, helping them to catch up at home is a good solution. If you’ve got time and feel confident, help them to study at home using online teaching resources. If they’re struggling with a subject you’re not great at yourself, hiring a private tutor is a smart move. This is especially helpful for subjects like maths and science, where the curriculum might have changed dramatically since you were at school.
If your child is consistently struggling with multiple subjects, it’s a good idea to arrange a meeting with their teachers to discuss their progress. There may be developmental or environmental factors that are causing your child to struggle – for example, having poor eyesight and sitting too far from the whiteboard. While one or two poor grades isn’t a cause for concern, being dramatically behind in every area is definitely something that needs further investigation.
4. Speak to Your Doctor About Potential Learning Difficulties
Children who dislike school are sometimes struggling with conditions that make learning difficult. You might notice that your child struggles with things that other children their age find easy, or you may have had concerns raised by teachers. Speaking to your doctor is helpful as they’ll be able to test for issues like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. These tests are normally quite simple, and shouldn’t be distressing for your child. Not all children who hate school will have learning difficulties, but it’s better to be on the safe side than to ignore potential issues.
Remember that even if your child is getting good grades, they may be struggling with other aspects of the school experience – for example, sticking to a routine, socializing with other children, or being spoken to by authority figures. Don’t automatically rule out developmental problems just because your child is performing well academically.
5. Talk to Teachers About Having Adjustments Made
Whether your child is diagnosed with a learning difficulty or not, there should be some simple adjustments that teachers can make to improve their school experience. For example, children with hearing difficulties could be guaranteed a seat at the front of the class. Children who struggle with a certain subject could be offered more one-on-one help or moved into a small class where they’ll get more focused attention. If your child is distressed by something else, like eating school dinners, they could be given permission to bring in a packed lunch.
Before you get in touch with teachers, have a clear idea of what you’re going to ask for and why. If you have anything to back your request up, like a letter from your child’s doctor, be sure to bring this along. If you’re not happy with the way your concerns are dealt with, don’t be afraid to speak to the headteacher or chair of governors instead. Most schools will be more than happy to do whatever they can to accommodate your child, so you shouldn’t hesitate to ask.
It’s heartbreaking to watch your child struggle through school, hating every second. Thankfully, most issues can be resolved through a combination of talking to your child, meeting with their teachers, and getting medical advice where necessary. Remember to stay positive about school no matter how much your child dislikes it, as they’ll take their cues from you. Before you know it, going to school could become the highlight of your child’s week – and they might even complain that they miss it during the holidays!