School Anxiety: What to Do if Your Kid Doesn’t Want to Go

My child is 10-years old and is refusing to go to school and complaining of physical aliments that have not been based in reality. What should I do?


MOM: The first thing that people need to understand about school phobias is that it’s not actually a “school” phobia; it’s a fear of losing the parent, of being separated from the parent.

MOLLY: I bet that’s really misunderstood. I bet people think it mostly has to do with something going on at school.

MOM: It’s not about school. Well, occasionally it may be about school, but quite frankly I’ve never seen it about school. It’s about the separation from the parent. And for whatever reason – there’s a lot of stress going on in the house, whatever. For whatever reason, the child is afraid to separate from the parent.

Sometimes what you see are kids whose parents are always, always, always around. Parents who literally hover. This gives the message to the kid psychologically that she can’t make it on her own.

Now, you don’t expect a young child to make it on her own, but there are developmental steps occurring as the child begins to have a life outside of her home at school. So if the message that the parent gives is that the child is unable to manage without the parent, then the child will believe it.

The sad thing is that it’s really done out of a good heart on the parent’s part, because they feel that they’re loving and protecting their children as much as they can, and that’s true, but it can be overdone.

What you end up with is a child that’s frightened of the world out there and only feels safe with the parent. The kid doesn’t feel like she is grown up enough. Even if she might look grown up on the outside, on the inside she doesn’t feel like she can handle it. It feels too overwhelming and she might just decide to shut down from the world. These children figuratively cover up their heads with their blankets.

MOLLY: So what do you do if this happens?

MOM: The very first thing you do is enforce that the child has to go to school. It should not be an option to stay home. Once you get into an, “Okay, you can stay home from school” pattern, it’s a slippery slope.

Now, saying that, sometimes people might allow one day for a “mental health day”, and I think that’s okay, as long as it is accompanied with the clear message that tomorrow is back to school.

And then, if the reluctance to go to school continues, you probably need to get some professional help. The practice of not going to school is the kind of thing you don’t want to settle in for too long in a kid.

MOLLY: What could happen?

MOM: Well, these kids might find all kinds of ways not to leave home, or they could develop panic attacks. They might be reluctant to sleep overnight at friend’s house, or even have play dates without a parent. You might end up with a child who has a lot of resistance and anxiety around independent experiences. The panic is related to the separating from the parent.

MOLLY: So essentially they need to see a therapist.

MOM: Yeah, they do. And it’s not a hard cure.

MOLLY: So it’s not like a years and years thing.

MOM: No, it’s like a few months of therapy.

MOLLY: That’s it?

MOM: Yeah, that’s it. It’s not a hard thing to solve in therapy if you find a good therapist.


Experience this? Comment below if you’ve had success helping your child deal with school anxiety using other strategies. Or Contact US if you have other parenting questions you’d like to see addressed.

ding 59 comments on “School Anxiety: What to Do if Your Kid Doesn’t Want to Go

  1. I must say, I disagree. I think it is really important to honor your child’s feelings and to try to figure out what is going on in the classroom. When I was teaching, I had a few sensitive children with school phobia my first year teaching, and I realize that it was because I was inexperienced and not doing a good job monitoring the classroom environment. I noticed it less each year I taught. Also, I would say that school has become much more high pressure for younger kids with the high stakes testing. I imagine that sometimes it has to do with attachment, but I would think that more often, it has to do with the school.

    • Thank you Grace, it is really wonderful to hear the teacher’s perspective that is not “its not school’s fault, it your (parents) fault”. I couldnt agree more that the teacher’s ability to create a fun and engaging environment makes a big difference in how a child feels about school. Unfortunately, some teachers drill through the syllabus without truly connecting with the children. Bolor

    • I agree completely. daughter is thirteen..first year of high school …. she’s a honor roll student….and at least once or twice a week she’s bugging me at work asking if she can stay home knowing that I don’t have the time or attention to give the matter….it’s frustrating! Being as me and her father work all day and her brothers are in school. I’m thinking that she may actually be craving that separation from all of us…either way…I’m very concerned she insists there’s nothing wrong…and honestly that concerns me more!

  2. Dear Grace,
    Thanks so much for your comment. I certainly can see how what’s going on in the classroom can negatively affect a child. And probably easier to deal with than separation anxiety from the mother. I think my viewpoint on this is skewed by the number of patients I’ve seen where there is no reportable concern with the classroom but lies in the relationship with the parents. It may be that there is a new sibling in the family and the child is feeling “replaced” at home. There are all kinds of reasons. Probably it’s a good idea to check out the classroom situation before looking at the family dynamics in helping the child resolve this issue.
    Thanks so much for your input!

    • Since my daughter started school she’s loved school and loved her teacher, she didn’t have a problem with homework either. Once she got into 3rd grade not only was it a big transition year as far as work load goes, but her teacher was someone who would pick favorites and those same kids would always be teachers pet. She yelled a lot and she also picked certain kids she would pick on and yell at more. Well my quiet daughter who was always the child teachers would dream of in their class was one of the children she yelled at and picked on a lot. Shortly after school started my daughter started to not want to go to school and slowly be less interested in homework as well. By winter break only half way through the year she didn’t want to get up in the morning anymore or go to school. I finally decided to switch schools, so when I went to pick her up one day I went a little early so I could pick up the paperwork. I walked down the hall to meet my daughter at the classroom instead of outside since I was in the school and I quietly walk up to the teacher scolding only my daughter about why she didn’t finish 2 papers that were given the last 10 minutes of the day and to be taken home to be completed if not finished before the bell ring… no one else was being scolded and the teacher gave the work 10 minutes before the bell and to be taken home if not finished. Well as I was walking up she was scolding my daughter and once she noticed I was right behind her she changed her toned to finish. She was sneaky in my opinion and a bully. Because of her my daughter is now afraid of teachers and doesn’t want to go to school, plus we constantly struggle with homework now. Not only that but the stress she was causing my daughter (who didn’t talk about much of it until she changed schools) changed her sweet behavior at home to lashing out here and there. It has all gotten worse but I am working on trying to find a solution to help my daughter get back to herself in all aspects. We have talked to the school counselor, teacher and principal so they know. We’re even in therapy, the therapist is mostly focusing on the behavior at home. It has helped that some but I need more, I don’t know what to do, I need a solution or something…? This is the first time her grades are starting to go down, she will hardly do her homework and she wants to do school online now because she doesn’t want to go and deal with her teachers. What do I do?

      • She is 9 in 4th grade and has been at her new school for about a year now. So she had her new 3rd grade teacher last year when we switched and now her current 4 the grade teacher. Her teacher says she’s smart so she doesn’t know what’s the issue. But she always stresses about school and homework even though she doesn’t always do the homework. I think she probably has anxiety about going to school.

        • We can’t underestimate the psychological damage an individual teacher can do to a child. I’m so sorry that your child was exposed to this. She needs to feel understood about that damage, and that not all teachers are alike. Also, I would emphasize with her that she can tell you straightaway if she encounters any problems in school, no matter how small. I would continually recognize with her that the fault was with the teacher, not her. I think she might be experiencing some separation anxiety from her Mom now, and you might be able to ease her back to school when you recognize this with her. I realize you may have already done these things, but I believe in repetition when dealing with results of trauma.

      • Mom of 2 – If her relationship with her teacher is good and she is doing her work, I think you have to consider something going on with some of her classmates. See if you can get some understanding of those relationships by talking with her and with her teacher. It’s a place to start.

      • Dear Mom of 2, my son also facing the same problem. He refused to go to school everyday cause the teachers talked loudly to him. The teacher also yelled at the class every day. Can you share what kind of therapist your daughter is seeing?

      • My daughter is 8 and twin. In your explanation,besides the teacher, you described our daughter and situation to a tee.. It is so frustrating not knowing how to help her. We started family therapy and hope it works. So far therapist has said she feel she is going through separation anxiety. I wish you the best.

        • Tony – I’m so glad we could be helpful. This issue about school anxiety is much more common than most of us realize. Most therapists understand that separation anxiety is often the underlying cause of school anxiety, although not always, so needs to be investigated. We wish you success in your therapy!

  3. What if your child has separation issues ONLY at school? What if your child won’t get out of the car and the parent has to walk or drag the child in? What if the child refuses to enter the classroom or kicks and punches the teacher when he is forced into it? And the ONLY time this behavior occurs is at school? What type of help would you recommend then?

    • Melinda – this sounds suspiciously like there’s someone at school he is frightened of (to go the lengths of hitting the teacher). If he’s not having separation issues outside of school, then I would narrow in on the school. I don’t know how old your child is, but when he is calm, I would have a serious conversation with him. If he can’t suggest reasons himself, I would run by him possibilities that you’ve thought of – is there bullying going on, does he have a serious conflict with his teacher, etc. Honestly, he sounds more frightened than anxious. I would also speak with his teacher for this year, and the one from last year and see if they can shed light on this. If none of this bears fruit, you might need to see a child therapist to help you figure it out.

  4. My daughter did not attend preschool, and was very excited to start her first year at school. She did very well the first two months, and now is crying, not letting me go in the morning, crying through out the day, and even some days is crying so much she gets sick. She has told me that she misses me too much and doesn’t want to be at school all day everyday. This has become very stressful and is taking a toll on me and her. We are very close, and she does tell me everything that happens in school and out. I am sure there is nothing bad happening to her there. PLEASE HELP ME!!!

    • Ouch – this sounds really hard for both of you. If you’re sure all is well at school, I would make sure she doesn’t miss any school – you don’t want to set up a bad pattern. I see this kind of reaction more in kids just starting preschool, and this may be the equivalent for your child starting regular school. If she has a special friend at school, I would encourage her to hang out with her to help her thru this time. Sometimes – although I don’t know if this would be possible, you could arrange to talk midday with her (in the nurse’s office?) for a short check-in with her to help her get thru the day. You just say you’re looking forward to seeing her at the end of the school day and she can tell you all about it. I don’t think think she’ll have to do this for long. She’ll get used to school. The important thing is to send her every day. Maybe she could put her favorite stuffed animal in her backpack as a transitional object (she doesn’t get to take you, but rather a representation of you). If this doesn’t work, you might need to see a child therapist to help you both thru this. Good luck!

  5. The issue is definately at school not home. School should be a happy place, children want to go. The reason they want to stay home with Mum is because they do not feel comfortable there. So often it is hard for children to explain how they feel (eg. young age, betrayed by teacher, other children. The problem is most likely nothing like you have been thinking eg friends bringing toys to school that they will not share or swap). Parents feel guilty and blame themselves! Avoid taking children to phycologists they dont need a stranger delving into their hearts and heads. They need the love of their parents and security and passion that comes from a damn good teacher!

    • Kristy Chiverton
      It’s so true what you have posted. My 6 year old son feels anxiety, and tells me he doesn’t feel comfortable with the teacher they placed him with, since his previous teacher left, (who he really loved). He often tells me he misses his previous teacher and that things with this new teacher are so different. This change happened since October, and we are in January now, and he feels sad all the time, not wanting to go back to school. I requested another teacher, but the director of the charter school said no. Now I’m praying so much, I been thinking of getting him out and homeschool him for the rest of the year and see if that will help him. But yes! I agree with you, this children need security, to feel safe and wanted by their teacher, is obvious his class environment has changed!

  6. My son has depression anxiety and he is six. It’s not constant it comes for a dew weeks where he freaks when I have to go somewhere without him and then it goes away for a few weeks and I can come and go with no issue. All of the sudden he is giving me issue with going to school. He refuses to go on the bus. And then when I drive him we have to physically removed him from the car crying.he system he doesn’t feel well or makes up some issue with someone in school when there is no issue to make me feel bad. I don’t know what is causing this and have him in therapy already because he has ADD. I don’t know what to do and I feel horrible forcing him but I know it’s the right things to do for him because once he is there he ends up being fine. He tells me when I am leaving to go somewhere without him that he is scared I won’t come back or something bad Is going to happened to me! I Let’s come back I have never not come back and nothing bad has every happened to me! I know it’s some form of anxiety but I don’t know why to do. I need help and advice because this is breaking my heart and causing conflict between my husband and I

      • Jennifer – I realize you meant that he has separation anxiety. I wonder if something happened to trigger this off earlier in his life. In any case, your “mantra” needs to be “Mommy ALWAYS comes back” and continue to have him live a normal life – school, etc. I think it’s not a good idea to keep him home from school – that only feeds into the problem. Be firm, cheerful, and remind him that you always come back. I think he needs to actually experience this. It may take him a while, but stick with it.

  7. My 10 year old son goes to a special needs school. He has recently started refusing to go. I’ve tried taking him instead of him getting on the bus, but then I deal with meltdowns when they come to get him from the car. I’m talking screaming, kicking, hitting. Then when I get him home he continues with the meltdown. He has holes in his wall from his fits. I don’t hover and try to give my kids space and allow them to do some things for themselves. I don’t think it has anything to do with separation anxiety. I’m worried about the legal consequences of him not going to school.

    • Christy – This situation sounds very difficult for both you and your son. The first thing I would suggest is setting up a meeting with his teacher and see if you can find any trigger at school that may have started this process. I don’t think this kind of reaction starts all by itself. Something is very very upsetting for him at school. The sooner you meet with the teacher, the better. The longer this goes on, the harder it can be to resolve. Let us know how you do with this.

  8. My son is 13. He is very well behaved and has benn in gifted classes since kindergarten. He is in middle school and every morning has been having headaches or chest pains or nausea. He’s been to DR’s and neurologist who have written excuses for his absences saying it was a virus or since other family members have had migraines that it is common. I’ve recently asked his pediatrician to recommend a psychiatrist to see if anxiety might be causing all of this. Her response was , ” Do you really want to go down that road?” … Well Yes! If nothing there can’t be any harm in it …. Right? We are waiting on the referral … I just wanted to ask if anxiety is something that is curable or is it something he is gong to have to learn to live with and adjust to? This is something that is keeping my baby from having a happy, healthy childhood.

    • Lula – I’m with you – he needs to see a professional. Anxiety is treatable, for sure. Sometimes it’s drugs, sometimes talk therapy, sometimes behavioral modification. I think you should also consider that he might be having some reaction to food that could cause his symptoms. You and he could keep track of what he is eating, although a reaction could occur several days after eating a particular food. There are blood test that can be done to determine food sensitivities. I’ve been impressed with how much better people feel when they avoid food they are sensitive to. Including me!

  9. Having some issues with my daughter, for the past 6 weeks she hasn’t been wanting to go to school. She says she wants to quit or switch schools, my daughter is only 6 years old. She is the type of girl that wants to know if she’s doing her work right but was told by the teacher to ask for clarification less often and try on her own first. I totally agree with her on that, but again we are talking about a six year old thats looking for guidance from the teacher. My daughter hates and I mean hates math at school but can sit at home and work on math question no problem. The teacher thinks part of my daughter’s difficulty is that there can be multiple answers and not always a fact to memorize and when she is not sure she tends to lack the confidence to try on her own. She relies on others in her group or the teacher to get started. The teacher also thinks by continuing encourage independent work and effort she will gain more confidence. With that said and done, I guess one day about 6 weeks ago my daughter went up to her teacher and ask for clarification on a math question, the teacher look at my daughter and said you know what how about I quit being your teacher. When my daughter came home that day she was really upset and told me what her teacher had said to her. I was really shocked and upset but told her she must of misunderstood. I requesting a parent teacher interview. When I asked the teacher if she had said that she was quitting being my daughter’s teacher, she admitted to saying it but she was having a bad day and she apologized to my 6 year old daughter. So ever since this day my daughter has been refusing to go to school, she hates math and now she just wants to quit and give up on everything and move to a different school. So as a mother of two (6 years old and a 11 month old) I have been left to try to fix this alone, my daughter self esteem has been tarnished. Children that age are like sponges they absorb everything. My child does have her faults but she’s six years old, I still have faults and I’m 35. She is polite, she uses her manners, she has a big heart and will give up anything to see other people happy. So for 6 weeks now I have been working on my daughter’s self esteem instead of math. Just a few days ago my daughter and her bff had a play date, as we where having dinner I asked how school was today. I was told by my daughter bff that the teacher told my daughter that she had a bad attitude infront of the whole class and this put my daughter into tears. Again I was upset and surprise that the teacher would degrade my daughter again. I asked what were you doing when your teacher said this to you, and my daughter told me she was answering a math question. I asked her what was the math question and she said well the teacher gave us a paper that asked if we like math and we had to choose 1-always 2-sometimes and 3-never. I asked my daughter which one did you pick and she said 2 and I asked why she said she loves doing math at home but doesn’t like it at school. I said okay so then what happen? I was told that the teacher went up to my daughter and told her to switch her answer to never because she doesn’t like math and that she has a bad attitude. This left my daughter in tears and embarrassed as this was said in front of whole classroom. so immediately that same day I wrote in the agenda book that I needed to have a meeting with her as soon as possible her reply was I was thinking the same thing I was actually going to phone you today. I’m so annoyed and so upset and I’m not sure what I should do or how I should go about this or how to fix my daughter self esteem. Please some useful advice 🙁

    • Christine, I am sorry that your daughter is going through this. She is so young to have a difficult time at school. You need to request a meeting with the principal explaining that you already met with the teacher. There is clearly a personality conflict that can only be solved by requesting another class placement. You are your child’s best advocate.–a first grade teacher

  10. I have a 7 year old that just started school she does not like to go and has been crying at the begging of school for her mom she wakes up saying her stomach hurts she started this the last month or so of 1st grade she is a very happy girl most of the time she can have a anger problem with me or her mom but does good otherwise we love her very much my wife and I seperated about 3 years ago but we have her every other day we live in a town of 900 people so everyone know every one good town I just want her to be happy and enjoy school she like school up to the end of last year

  11. Please help!!! :’-(
    I’m the father of a 6 years old daughter who started 1st grade school 2 months ago.
    In the beginning everything was ok and she was excited of starting this journey in her life.
    In the last month, she doesn’t want to go to school anymore. Just after entering school, all her mood changes and she starts getting attached to me (this happens on daily basis).
    In the last two days she’s been crying at school. And today she followed me back to car while crying.
    I talk to her a lot and ask about school and there is nothing wrong there…
    She complains sometimes about having many classes (9!). Their day starts at 8:15 and ends at 15:45. But I “convinced” her that’s ok because there is lots of fun there also. Some of those classes include Music, Arts, Horse Riding and Swimming.
    Her main claim now is that she wants to see us all the time.
    I guess that is what is called “Separation Anxiety”?
    Even in the afternoon, I struggle sometimes getting her allowing me to get out alone for personal matters.
    I saw a reply from Dr Susan above about such anxiety:
    “Jennifer – I realize you meant that he has separation anxiety. I wonder if something happened to trigger this off earlier in his life.”
    In my case, she went through a separation from mommy when she was 6 months when mommy was diagnosed with Leukaemia and had to stop breastfeeding her suddenly (Mom is ok now thanks God).
    I have to mention also that she is our only daughter and she still sleeps in the parents room, so that could be another reason why she is so connected…
    Please help…
    I would appreciate your advice…

  12. My husband daughter is 10 years old, she refuse to go to school. She lives with her mother (mostly grandmother) the mother and her boyfriend is in and out of the house. She screem like a small child I don’t want to go to school. she’s grade 4. learning classes. and 6 months at a therapist. they gave pills, but she don’t want to even stay at her dad’s. she is lying to everyone, and manipulating everyone around her. Sometimes she is ugly with my 4year old. I don’t say anything otherwise I am the bad one.. it is out of control. Can you please help with any advise

    • Louise – It sounds like you have a very difficult problem to deal with. Obviously, something is very wrong. Have you spoken with her teachers to see if then can shed light on the situation? In addition, when kids refuse to go to school there is a Separation Anxiety going on with the parent – a fear of being separated from her for some reason. You might want to explore that possible explanation.

  13. Hello, I need help my son has recently started crying about going to school for example he’ll start craying Sunday night and he keeps repeating he doesn’t like school, he even says he hates school. He is 7 second grade he has speech problems and when he was little he was tested for autism they say he does not have autism but autistic like behavior so he is on special classes he has been going to school since he was 3 and since last year he says he doesn’t want to go, but from a few months to now he crys about it for a good time and I don’t know what to do it’s really stressful because I do t know how to manage this situation.

  14. Hi,my 12 year old grandson over the last couple of weeks has been very distressed about going to school,he is in first year senior school and has,nt had a problem up to now.His mam has a terrible time getting him to go but knows he has to go,he is ringing her crying from school to go and get him but this morning I think he was so desperate he was ringing me begging me to go and get him.The school are aware of the problem and are trying to help he has had someone to talk to at school but not sure if it will work as he is still very distressed,the problem goes way when he is out of school ,his work at school is very good,so that’s not the problem,we ask him if anyone is bothering him such as pupils or even a teacher but he insists not,he has had blood tests to rule out anything physical but they have come back clear,he was poorly about three weeks ago with a bad chest the doctor gave him steroids to help his chest,could they have affected his emotions?We are desperate to help him ,have you any suggestions please? thankyou Judith.

    • Judith,
      Steroids can affect emotions, but it sounds like your grandson was experiencing problems before he took this medicine. Something is happening in school that is distressing/scaring him and he sounds frantic. The family really has to get to the bottom of this. You should definitely check into any possibility that other kids are harassing him, teasing him, or any other behavior that’s been harmful and scary for your grandchild. He may be afraid to tell you. Enlist any help you can get from school.

  15. After my wife finished her phd, we move from another country to follow her path in science, and we change roles, i move from full time work to full time dad of our 4 year old and it was a very difficult time for me and my child, he change language, house, school, weather, country and care keeper.

    After a very hard and difficult year, all that i can say is that i have learn a lot from him and even that he still have some problems with bedwetting, we are doing well, he speaks english, he have a lot of friends, he love his new school and even he is in hockey lessons with one of his friends from his pre-k, but im going to start in a new job soon and today that i went to my final interview, my wife left him in the school and he refuse to enter the school and even he hit his teacher and yield,
    And after my interview i try to back to school in the afternoon turn (that he likes too) and even that we speak about it, and he was ready to say sorry to his teacher, when we arrive to the school again, it was impossible to make him go out of the car.

    I understand that he have feelings because i will start a new job, and we already speak about it, but i’m really worry.

    In the meantime i think is good idea go to a therapist. The big question is: what kind of therapist does we need?

    • Alberto,
      It sounds like you’ve done an amazing job with your son. Now that you will be working, your son is distressed about separations from you. This is quite normal. Four year olds will more likely “act out” their issues rather than talk about them, but talking about his feelings would be part of the goal. Usually you would need to put his feelings into words – he might not be able to. It might be helpful to set up activities that you will be able to do with him ahead of time – giving him something to look forward to and bridge this difficult time in his life. For instance, taking him to hockey, etc. – what could be possible while in your new job. He needs time to adjust. Set up a time with him everyday that will work for your schedule and his that you can talk on the phone and he can check in with you about his day. Then he’ll know for sure that he’ll have contact with you. Also, perhaps he could have more time with his Mom.
      If you decide to see a therapist, look for a child psychologist or social worker. Most likely they will do play therapy with a child this young.

  16. My 5 year old started school when he just turned 3….big mistake I couldn’t handle myself and he couldn’t either, he cried for 2 days straight and then I cracked I had to take him out. He just started kindergarten the first day I cried…he didn’t (yay). Well that night he said he didn’t want to go anymore. He cried the next morning and said he didn’t want to go, we got there and he was fine then told me he had a great day. Night time hit and he started bawling his eyes out. I feel so bad for leaving him crying at school. Question is…how can we get over this emotional Rollercoaster? How long does it last?

    • Dee,
      This is not an uncommon problem. The issue of separation anxiety can actually reside in the parent. It sounds like it’s been harder for you than for your son this time around. I’m wondering if he’s worried about you when he goes off to school. My advice is to come to terms about his temporary separation from you each school day, show a confident face to him about school, encourage him to go, and tell him you want to hear about his day when you pick him up. Be consistent in this approach with him, and I think you will both have success.
      Good luck!

  17. I have a 7 year old daughter who just got into primary school a week ago, the first two days were fine, but since this Monday she refuses to go to school anymore. she said she wants to stay at home with me, cause she missed mom too much at school, and she will start crying(non-stop) when she misses me… Teacher in the school has been very helpful comforting, but it’s not working…she said new school has been so hard for her, she doesn’t know anyone and the classes are totally new, she refuses to make friends in school… is it normally that the issue of separation anxiety happens to a 7 year old girl? she has been fine in the past 3 years in kindergarten, but why now in primary school?

    • Lucy – I can see why you’re puzzled. It’s hard to say straightaway what the problems might be. Since she did well separating for previous years of schooling, you probably should speak with her teacher. Sounds like something is happening at school that is not working well for her. I think that should be your first line of inquiry. Talking more with your daughter should continue.

  18. I have a 7 year old who is in 1st grade. The first week of school he did great and as soon as he would get home he would complete his homework for the whole week with little to no assistance from me. He never cried in pre-k and kindergarten. Unfortunately, for the past two weeks he has been crying everyday and refusing to go to school. He told me one of his classmates hit him and was scared of him. I talked to his teacher and she talked to the student’s parents. Apparently, the kid only hit my son once and ever since then he hasn’t done anything else. My son continues to cry excessively to the point he kicks and screams. All he says is that he is afraid and that he wants to be with me to take care of me. Things have become worse, last week he kicked his counselor who was trying to calm him down and also had the intention of punching her but he missed since the counselor moved. I had a meeting with my son, the vice-pincipal, and the counselor about the incident. The viceprincipal tried to convince my son to apologize to the counselor and she hold my son but he cried and would repeat “I want my mommy” I was there at all time. I would ask him why he was scared and to apologize to the counselor but he would not respond. He was suspended for a day due to his behavior and although I tried to talk to him at home all I got was “I’m scared and when I get to school I want to be with you”. My oldest son had an accident about the same time the student hit my son where we had to take him to the hospital. A week ago I also went to the doctor because I have kidney stones and the day before my son got suspended I had a panic attack which my son witnessed. I feel like all these incidents have really affected my son and that’s why he is so scared. I have tried get him to talk, but all he says is that he is scared and wants to be with me. I explained to him that we were going to see an excellent lady (therapist) that is going to help him so he doesn’t feel scared. He refuses to go. What should I do?

    • Gloria – This sounds like an awful situation for your son and for you – so many things happening at the same time. Going to a therapist is definitely a great idea. I know your son refuses to go. Bribe him. Offer him something that he would like to go one time with you and see what it’s about. He really has no idea at this point – he’s only seven! He’s obviously very scared and acting out in response to his fear. Can you put him in another classroom? This has to be approached on several levels, and the therapy is #1. Also, if there’s any way you can help him feel that he can protect himself at school without punching someone, that would be good, too. Maybe a martial arts class would be really helpful to give him a sense of confidence and teach him the art of defense. He’s one scared boy, and I can see why he is.

      • Thank you so much Dr.Susan. I asked the viceprincipal but she said it was not an option since there is only one 1st grade bilingual class in the school. Every morning is a struggle but only when is time to go to school. The rest of the day he is fine. This situation has been really difficult but I will definitely convince him to go see a therapist. I will also look into martial arts and soccer as he loves sports. I really appreciate your help.

  19. Hi Maam! My 6 yr old daughter she is afraid to going to school. From Last 1 week she cried she don’t want to go to school . She is afraid to separate from me. Even she don’t want to play outside without me? Please help how can I understand what is the problem and. How to solve.

  20. Hello! I’m at a loss with my seven year old son. He suddenly doesn’t want to go to school. He is an incredibly smart straight A student.

    I want to give a little background info that may be relevant. My husband and I both suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, and my son displays some signs of anxiety. He was an only child until 2015, when we had our surprise second child. Last year he did great with kindergarten. This year, he started first grade wonderfully. While on the school playground on September 2, he and a friend were on the slide steps horse-playing and he said the boy pushed him. He got a broken arm. He acknowledges that the boy feels bad about it and apologized.
    A few weeks ago, he stated he didn’t want to go to school. I asked him why and he made excuses that sounded vague. I eventually coaxed out of him that there is a substitute teacher that he doesn’t like and his teacher was going to be out that day. He was physically shaking while relaying this to me. When I asked why he didn’t like her, he said, “She yells.”
    I’ll admit, I yell too, from time to time, and when I pointed this out he said, “Not like she does.”
    I did let him stay home that day, and contacted his teacher over the weekend. His teacher is excellent and I’ve maintained lines of communication with her. She confirmed that the sub is not best suited for younger kids and has even gone out of her way to ensure that the sub will not teach her class when she is out. However, she said that so far this year, the sub had not taught her class and that the day he missed, she was not out.
    Still every morning, he asks if his teacher will be at school. I do not know what to do. If he even thinks she might be gone, he cries and trembles. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to me. I tell him that he has to go to school, unless he wishes to repeat first grade. My husband takes him in the mornings and had said there were a couple of times he tears up while dropping him off and his teacher said that he cried one day at school.
    Do you think this sounds more like separation anxiety or a fear of change in routine?

    • Dear J.M.,
      I can understand your concern for your seven year old. Anxious reactions do seem to run in families, although not the only reason a child may experience anxiety. When I read your message, I wasn’t struck with a sense that this might be separation anxiety. It feels more like some fears about feeling unprotected at school. Especially in light of his earlier success with school. He might not be able to verbalize these fears, given his age. Obviously, I don’t know him and could easily be wrong about this, but I do think it’s worth talking more with him about his school experiences. You should also consider seeing a child therapist if his discomfort continues about school.

  21. I have a problem with my son he is 3rd grade 9yrs old he does not want to go to school cries everyday took him to the pediatrician gave him anxiety medication I ask him if he is having issues at school with bully he says no, but hates it when they ask him why is he done so quick I really don’t know what to do should I concider a psychologist???

    • Rosana – I understand your anxiety about your son. I would suggest 2 things: you should talk with his teacher to see if she can shed light on what’s going on at school, and, if that isn’t helpful, I would definitely seek out a child psychologist. Something is wrong, and we don’t yet know what it is.

  22. Hello my daughter is 8.
    She absalutely loved 2nd grade.
    Now we are in 3rd grade and she has a male teacher that is 74 years old. Her first male teacher so far. Shes done great all year until this past week. She keeps saying shes sick and needs to stay home. She cried herseld to sleep Sunday night and told me she cant handle being in his class because he is to strict and gets angry a lot. She said that when he is acting this way it makes her miss mommy. She has always had a bit of trouble leaving me because we are so close but has always been able to be a big girl. Now she says she tries her best but she gets upset and wants me while at school.
    Im not sure what to do. We have been at our very small school for years as our oldest attended there aswell. There is inly one teacher per grade so there is no chance of requesting a different teacher. It breaks my heart

    • Patricia – From your description, it sounds like this is a new issue directly related to her teacher. I think some intervention is called for; her anxiety will interfere with her comfort and school performance. Since there is no chance of changing her class, I suggest you set up a meeting with her teacher and see if this can be resolved. Let him know of her anxiety and perhaps he could approach her differently. It’s definitely worth a try. If that’s not successful you might have to approach the principal.
      This doesn’t sound like a separation anxiety from you; I think she yearns for you because of her fears and anxiety related to her teacher.

  23. Please help. My 6 year old is in 1st grade, and refuses to leave my side (or, get out of the car) at morning drop off for school. He will want to give me one more hug, and one more hug, etc… until I am so frustrated, I am on the verge of anger. Please don’t misunderstand, I absolutely love my son and the fact that he is so affectionate but, the teachers or school principal literally have to drag him away from me so I can leave. Every morning seems to end with both of us in tears. But when I talk to his teacher or the principal later in the day, he is back to normal within 1 or 2 minutes after I am out of sight, and is fine throughout the rest of the day.

    When I ask him why he gets so upset, he tells me that he just wants to stay home with me because he has more fun at with me. He did have a problem with one of his classmates last year in Kindergarten, but that was addressed, and the boys have been getting along just fine this year. In fact, my son will ask if he can stay and play with the other boy almost every day after school. Needless to say, I don’t think the classmate is the problem, or that there is anything going on during the school day. He loves his teacher, and always has a great day at school once I am gone.

    I have never given in and allowed my son to skip school, and I never will. He is a very smart young man, and I know how important it is to develop a good school habit now.

    I am just at my wits end with his behavior. My husband (his father) and I have tried everything we can think of from rewarding good morning drop offs to taking things away as a consequence of the bad drop off. As of this morning, he has lost his TV privilege for a week because of how he acted at this morning’s drop off, but I spent most of the day in tears.

    Should we just let things work themselves out? My sister-in-law says eventually he will learn that he has to go to school and that I cannot stay with him.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated and welcome.

    • My 9 year old grandson is extremely bright. He has always gone to school willingly. In the middle of third grade he is suddenly begging not to go to school. Mcrying hysterically and sayiing he can’t do it. He only says he misses mom and dad. The teacher said there are no red flags. What could possibly have caused such a drastic change.

    • Lisa – Sometimes a strong reluctance to go to school is because something is going on in school that the child is avoiding. This doesn’t seem to be the case for your son. Rather, this looks like the classic separation anxiety from Mom that many young kids go through. It sounds like you’ve tried a number of behavioral interventions without much luck. I’ve recommended another approach that has worked out well with other families. Try this: Each morning in a cheerful way ask your son to remember what goes on for him at school – classes, playground, etc. so that he can tell you ALL about his day when you pick him up. This gives him something concrete to focus on that he can share with you. It will help him feel more ‘grown-up’ with this task and at the same time he can look forward to his connection with you
      We would love to hear how it works for you. It’s important that you do not communicate your anxiety to him but rather be cheerful and act like you’ve given him an important task.

      • Dr. Rutherford,
        Thank you so much for your response. Unfortunately, we had already tried a similar approach several times before we implemented consequences for bad drop offs.

        However, after reading some of your responses to others, I talked to my son the next morning before school and asked him what he thought we could do to so he could have great morning drop offs.

        At first, he didn’t have to much to offer. So I let him in on my little secret about the nickname (Little Man) I have for him. I explained that Mommy loves Daddy very much, and that Daddy is my “Big Man.” I went on tell him that I call him my “Little Man” because he is my little version of Daddy, and that I love him just as much as I love Daddy.
        I could see the sense of pride in his eyes and watched his shoulders go back in confidence almost instantly.
        I then asked him if he thought it would help if he pretended to be Daddy when it came time to go into school and separate from Mommy in the morning. He said it might.

        Then we talked about getting rid of that ‘clingy bug’ that likes to hang around in the mornings. And we talked about how Daddy was big, brave, and strong, and that Daddy wouldn’t cling to Mommy if he had to go to school in the mornings. I could see the wheels turning in his mind while he pictured/imagined how Daddy would behave at morning drop off.

        Since his biggest issue seems to be separating from me, I asked him if he thought a new picture of the two of us might help as well. He said he thought it might so we took a new selfie picture, I printed a copy, and put it in the snack box he carries in his backpack.

        I am happy to say we have had three great drop offs in a row. I really have no idea which one of the three approaches actually helped, or if it’s just a combination of all three. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me which one did the job. I am just so proud of my son for having the the great mornings.

        He is very proud of himself for the great mornings as well. My husband and I both have made it a point to make sure our son knows (and feels) how very proud we are of him (and, yes he earned his television privilege back). Even his teacher and principal have let know how proud they are of him as well.

        This happens to be a long 4-day weekend from school, so Tuesday next week will be the true test. But I am confident that my son will continue to have great morning drop offs. I will keep you posted on how things go next week.


  24. My Daughter can’t goes to school she is crying and told I can’t goes to school , She is 6 years old .
    Please advise

    • Ms.Naskar – Generally there are two reasons children refuse to go to school. 1) separation anxiety from the Mom, and 2) something is going on at school that has frightened the child. I think it would be wise to speak with her teacher and see what’s happening at school with the other children, etc. If there is something, then you will need to work with the school to make it safer for your child. In addition, she might be afraid to leave you for some reason, and that possibility should be explored, too.
      You might want to seek out help with a child therapist if her refusal continues. This issue is very important to resolve, and I know you are worried about it.

  25. Dr.Susan,
    My daughter is 9yrs old and in 4th std. She has following problems and our observation and remarks along with same.
    1. Recently in 4th Std. after going for few days to school rightly, one day because of illness we brought her from school in the mid-time.
    After her recovery we sent her school but again she faced problem of sudden fear and stomach problem we again brought her back to home.
    We gave her 2 to 3 days to recover, She complained us that her new class teacher asked her not required to come to school. We went to school with her met principal but they gave good remark of my daughter and problem told us was because of new teacher’s language conversation nothing else or because of my daughter.Issue resolved at that time but from next day when we sent her to school again after some time we got phone from school and asked us to pick up the child since she is not sitting in the class and crying. We went and brought her back.
    But from this incidence whenever we planned to go school the night before the actual day of school she found to be restless, not sleeping around whole night, not eating enough etc. In this situation also we tried to reach the school around 4 time in 20 days but she repeats the school after entering the school premises.
    2. We don’t want to pressurize her and increase her stress while solving the problem. How to deal with this to resolve the issue satisfactorily is not understood by me and my wife?
    3. In due course of problem our observations are as given below.
    3A) She has completed almost all study normally and with full devotion under guidance of her mother at home.
    3B) In this period she involved herself in study whenever given instructions without hesitation. She likes & enjoys to study at home.
    3C) In this period she enjoys her time and no signs of sadness or complaints or anger etc.
    3D) School management is also kind in nature giving support to her and satisfied with is academic record and school behavior till the time.
    3E) Last year because of long medical treatment of my father, we had not sent her to school for @ 1.5 months at the school beginning. After that same school going fear problem was observed but we tackled it and after that rest of the year she had not a single issue and also she got first class distinction and in 3 subjects she got 100 out of 100 marks.
    4. In this year how to deal with problem is big question for us? Can you give an expert advice to come out of the problem. One thing i would like to tell – my daughter is only one child to us and me and my wife most of the time, we are around her at home in this period time because of profession and situation. We love her very much also she loves us very much. We don’t want her academic carrier to be suffered since this problem.

    I have gone through the web papers published on this site and eager to get an answer.
    Awaiting for your reply.

    Thank You,

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