Life would be so much easier if your child will tell you that she has a problem in school.
Then you wouldn’t have to put up with the psychological “smokescreen” she creates to disguise her real dilemma, such as complaining of a headache each morning when she leaves for school, or sleeping badly the night before the school week begins.
Instead of coming to you with her worries, they emerge in other more subtle ways.
Why she doesn’t tell you
There are many reasons why your child fails to reveal directly to you that she has trouble coping with problems in school. This can be because:
She doesn’t realise that these difficulties cause her such distress. Your child probably doesn’t know that the playground rejection by a clique gives her a sore stomach every morning on the way to school. She thinks that by ignoring the problem, it will just go away.
She is too embarrassed to express her concerns to you. At this age, she is independent and standing on her own two feet. She believes she can manage by herself without your help, and the thought of having to come to you with her problem makes her feel inadequate.
She doesn’t want to worry you. Children this age can be remarkably sensitive, willing to keep a problem to themselves rather than upset their parents with it. Instead of causing you distress by sharing her difficulty with you, she tries to protect you by concealing it from you.
How it shows
However, your child’s school problem rarely goes away spontaneously. Neither do her worries. What typically occurs next is that her stress is expressed behaviourally in other ways.
That is why she only has headaches on school days, not on weekends or during holidays. Or she only says she has a stomach ache in the morning but not when school is over.
Her psychological concern can show in other non-physical ways, too, such as sleepless nights and bad dreams, or perhaps she suddenly tells you she no longer wants to attend her weekly piano class.
Sometimes a quiet, peaceful child becomes aggressive and uncooperative through anxiety, and a normally outgoing child becomes withdrawn.
Any of these – or other – changes in your child’s behaviour can indicate that she is worrying about a school problem. Always look for a deeper explanation when your child seems unsettled.
Find out more
Once you suspect that her troubled behaviour might be linked to a school-based problem, start to explore further.
Chat with her about school life. Cover all the key areas such as her ability to cope with the school work itself, the relationship she has with her class teacher, her friendships with her peers, and her activities during break times.
Ask open questions (those with a wide range of possible answers) not “closed” question (those with a “yes/no” answer). For example, rather than asking, “Is everything all right with your friends?”, say to your child, “Tell me how you are getting on with your friends.
You will get to the root of the problem eventually, although you may need to have this sort of discussion several times before you hit the mark.
Once you do find out the problem, let your child know that you are there for her, and you will work with her to find a solution. For a start, the reassurance of your understanding and support should make her feel better already.
From Young Parents, 16 April 2016