My daughter is three years old and is in preschool. Recently, she’s been refusing to go to school, sometimes even crying. How can I help my daughter with her sudden fear of school?
Being a mother and a preschool educator, I understand what you are going through. Many children go through periods of not wanting to go to school. Though there may be several reasons for this, they do get through this quite quickly with the positive support and reassurance from the adults around them.
If your child has been quite happy about going to school and suddenly refuses to, it may be due to some changes they are experiencing such as a new baby, family visiting or even a change in lifestyle. Other changes include a new teacher, a new schedule or a new friend. Drop by your child’s preschool and have a chat with the teacher, who may be able to shed more light on the situation.
The following are a few ideas you can use to positively manage this situation:
Avoid making your child promise not to cry. Instead, acknowledge your child’s feelings and let them know how proud you are of them for taking such a big step. Give them a big hug, and hand them over to their teacher. When picking your child up at the end of the day, receive your child with a big smile on your face and show interest in what they have done in school. Make a big deal out of the activities your child has done, praise them for their effort and tell them how happy you are. Your personal and consistent responses will help your child settle faster.
You may also consider letting your child bring a comfort toy to school. It might help your child manage their anxiety when you are not there with them.
Make a family photo book together with your child, which your child can bring to school and look at anytime they wish to.
Chat about the day in school and ask questions that are straight to the point, focusing on the activities and how it made them feel. Avoid leading questions e.g. "Are you scared of the new teacher?" What we don’t want to do is to create a concern when there is none.
Think about how you are feeling. Are you comfortable with the preschool and the teacher that your child is with? Your child can pick up on and react to your feelings and there will be resistance from them if they sense your anxiety.
Keep daily routines to school simple and consistent. Keep your goodbyes short and sweet and hand your child over to the same adult in school each day. Once a routine has been established, your child will feel reassured, and saying goodbye will be easier and happier.
Question answered by:
Head of Centre
Chiltern House East Coast