Date: 16 April 2008
Going to school usually is an exciting, enjoyable event for young children. For some it brings intense fear or panic. Parents should be concerned if their child regularly complains about feeling sick or asks to stay home from school with minor physical complaints. Not wanting to go to school may occur at anytime, but is most common in children 5-7 and 11-14, times when children are dealing with the new challenges of elementary and middle school.
Children with an unreasonable fear of school may:
- feel unsafe staying in a room by themselves
- display clinging behavior
- display excessive worry and fear about parents or about harm to themselves
- shadow the mother or father around the house
- have difficulty going to sleep
- have nightmares
- have exaggerated, unrealistic fears of animals, monster, burglars
- fear being alone in the dark, or
- have severe tantrums when forced to go to school
Such symptoms and behaviors are common among children with separation anxiety disorder. The potential long-term effects (anxiety and panic disorder as an adult) are serious for a child who has persistent separation anxiety and does not receive professional assistance. The child may also develop serious educational or social problems if their fears and anxiety keep them away from school and friends for an extended period of time. When fears persist the parents and child should consult with a qualified mental health professional, who will work with them to develop a plan to immediately return the child to school and other activities.
Refusal to go to school in the older child or adolescent is generally a more serious illness, and often requires more intensive treatment. Excessive fears and panic about leaving home/parents and going to school can be successfully treated.
Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry