It's something you might hear on the first day of pre-school, or out of the blue, after months or years of uneventful school attendance. Most children-especially younger ones-enjoy going to school. The daily comraderie of their classmates, the joy of filling their eager minds with new information, and the structure of the regimen itself are all aspects of the educational experience which most children look forward to.
Yet, at one time or another, many parents are faced with the problem of what teachers call “school-itis", or, the fear of going to school.
It's especially natural for an only child-with no sibling role models to mimic-to display some trepidation about being away from his parents for the first time. Many children, today, have already been to day-care by the time pre-school or kindergarten rolls around. They know what being away during the day feels like.
If your child hasn't, you can ease his anxiety by talking to him about what his days at school will be like. Tell him about your own fears, when you were his age and facing school for the first time.
Talk to your local school principal, learn what the day's typical structure will be like, and try modeling a school day at home. Try taking your child to the school, several times, during class hours, so that he can observe the surroundings and the other children; he can see how much fun it will be.
Find ways of having your child meet other children in groups. Birthday parties, worship events, and family gatherings are all good ways of getting your child accustomed to the kind of assimilation school offers. As well, your child can learn about school from other children who have already been.
When you take your child to school for the first time, avoid long goodbyes-he'll read your own anxiety and might believe that there really is something to fear about being left at school.
Don't be surprised if your child develops “school-itis" after he's been going awhile. It could simply be a natural part of a child's growing independence. If you suspect this to be the case, patiently explain that all children must go to school, and take him.
Children often convey their fears, using terms to which they expect you to respond: “I don't feel good", or, “My stomach hurts", or they may cry. Again, be patient, and check your child's symptoms as you normally would. Ask him to express exactly what it is that makes him feel bad about school.
If you suspect separation anxiety-the fear of being away from you-explain that the school will call you if your child needs anything from you, and that you'll be there for him as fast as you can. Once he's at school, he'll usually forget all about his morning fears.
If he expresses a fear of something real, like a bully, take it seriously. Contact his teacher, his principal, and your school's counselor. Dealing with the problem immediately will not only address your child's specific fear, it will also instill a level of trust between parent and child that will benefit you both in the future.
Most children will demonstrate “school-itis" at some point in their growing years. Be patient enough to understand the source of his fear and to help him through this normal cycle. If the problem persists, don't hesitate to seek help from teachers, counselors, or other childcare professionals.
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