Every child goes through pre-school jitters. But if your child seems to hate school more than most, is it normal (and you're just overreacting!) or is there really a reason to worry?
Prepare for school
Mumbai-based psychologist Janki Mehta says, "Most toddlers face separation anxiety and hate school initially. Children often become frightened when they meet new people or visit new places. They recognise their parents as familiar and safe. Away from them and home, they feel threatened and unsafe." This is a problem that solves itself once children get used to school and start making friends.
Preempt the problem by preparing your children beforehand. "While you're playing with them, mention how exciting school is and that it's a wonderful place where they can make new friends. If you seem excited, they will be intrigued," Janki says. "As soon as your child starts school, encourage group play—especially if yours is an only child. Encourage your child to meet school friends outside school. This will help the kids become close friends."
Watch out for signs
But Janki does say that there are signs all parents should watch out for in case of real trouble. "Look out for your child complaining about constant body aches, being tired all the time, being accident-prone, being fidgety, distracted and having low concentration. Bed-wetting, avoiding subjects, crying often and not eating are also causes for concern.
"Listen to your child through their body language. If there's a problem or your child is uneasy about something, talk him/her through it," says Janki. Don't preach, instead tell them what you would do in their position. No matter how much we want to protect them, our kids need to start learning problem-solving—the sooner the better. But assure them that you're always around if they need help and guidance. "But never make false promises," cautions Janki. "It makes children feel betrayed." Talk to their teachers and keep in touch with parents of other students so you know what's happening around your child.
Find the problem
The problem could be anything from bullies to learning disabilities or incomplete homework. "It's obvious how bullies can make one hate school. Sometimes the child may be afraid of one teacher, or be picked on by some students. However, the problem can also be a more deep-rooted one, like learning problems. When unrecognised, these kids are treated as slow learners and often face ridicule," says Janki.
"Too much information can also be a problem. Parents often teach their children a lot before they go to school, and this makes them easily distractible and bored, as they already know what's being taught." Wow, there's a reason to take it slow at home!
Time for drastic measures?
"Changing schools is very subjective. If your child is facing a lot of problems, consider a change, but only after trying to find solutions. Sometimes a child put in a regular school may need to go to a special school or vice versa. Find out if that is the case," advises Janki.
Give your child time to adjust, and listen to them. While it is important not to belittle their apprehensions, this might be their first lesson in facing problems. While it is okay to be scared, they need to face their fears—with you by their side, of course.