When Our Kids Don’t Want to Go to School–2 Things to Try

My daughter is really struggling being away from me every day for Kindergarten.  She loves it once she gets there and gets her day going in her classroom but dropping her off is just heartbreaking.  She’s the kid screaming and crying and running back to hug me one more time and clinging to my leg.  Today, they had to have two teachers pull her down the hallway to her classroom.  She was screaming and crying the whole time.

It’s HARD!  That’s how my day starts…every day!  It totally brings me back to the days when I didn’t want to leave my mom for school either.  In fact, my mom reminded me of the time when I locked her out of the car.  Of course, she was wearing a robe and curlers in her hair in her version of the story.  School was a struggle for me, and now it’s a struggle for my little girl.

In praying for wisdom, here’s what I’ve done, realized, said, or tried.  If you have kids struggling with school or any kind of separation anxiety, I hope these tips helps you too…

First of all, our job as parents isn’t to change our children’s emotions.  Our job isn’t to convince our kids to want to do something.  Our job isn’t to be pushy and demanding nor telling them they should feel a certain way.  “School is fun!”  “You should be happy to go!”  “You love to see your friends.”  “You always have so much fun once you get there.”  Not helpful.

Our job isn’t to make them feel shameful for how they feel or compare them to other kids “Look–all your friends are going in without crying.”  (You definitely don’t want to get that started!!) “Stop it. You are the only kid crying.”

We want to be a safe person who our kids can come to no matter how they feel.  I don’t like it when someone tries to change how I feel.  I just want to be listened to and understood.  Our kids need the same from us.  Our job is to empathize with them and teach them strategies for what to do when they do feel anxious.

1.  EMPATHIZE…

  • “I totally understand how you feel.”
  • “You don’t have to want to go.  You don’t have to like _______but you canchoose to make the best of it. “
  • “I know how you feel.  I used to feel upset or a little nervous about _______too.”
  • “It’s ok to be sad.”

2.  TEACH…

  • PRAYER:  “Let’s pray together.”  Remind them that God’s love and presence is always with them.   They are never alone.  He is always there to comfort them when they are sad or feel lonely.
  • SCRIPTURE:  Help them find comfort in God’s word.  Give them empowering Bible verses to memorize or write them down and put them in their backpack. The verse I used for separation anxiety was from Joshua 1:9–Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord, Your God, is with you wherever you go.
  • LOVE:  Remind your kids that just like God, you love them and are always in their heart wherever they go.  Let them know that they can always give you a “heart hug”.  And that you would be giving them “heart hugs” throughout the day too.  You could even put your picture or a picture of your family in an envelope for them to look at when they miss you.
  • CONFIDENCE:  Reassure your kids that they are safe, capable, smart, confident, and ready to go–wherever it is that they are going.

I can’t be pushy with my daughter even though I want her to go in the school without crying.  Pushing her–or any strong-willed kid–before she’s ready will only make things worse.  It’s certainly not easy, but I do have peace that this is her journey, and I’m just there to help her through it.

Lord, give our kids the confidence they need in You.  Bring peace to their anxious hearts and help us to be there to pray for them, bless them with Your word, love them, and encourage them.  

Here’s to building better families—

Christine