Going to school usually is an exciting, enjoyable event for young children. For some it brings fear, panic and/or separation anxiety. Parents have cause for concern when their child regularly feels sick from tension, “plays sick” or with minor physical complaints wishes to stay home from school. Not wanting to go to school is most common in children 5-7 and 11-14, times when children are dealing with the new challenges of elementary and middle school. These children may suffer from a paralyzing fear of leaving the safety of their parents and home. The child’s panic and refusal to go to school is very difficult for parents to cope with, but these fears can be treated successfully, with professional help.
Children with an unreasonable fear of school may:
* feel unsafe staying in a room by themselves * display clinging behavior * display excessive worry and fear about parents or about harm to themselves * shadow the mother or father around the house * have difficulty going to sleep * have nightmares * have exaggerated, unrealistic fears of animals, monster, burglars * fear being alone in the dark, or
* have severe tantrums when forced to go to school
Such fears are common among children with separation anxiety disorder.
The potential long-term effects (anxiety and panic disorder as an adult) are serious for a child who has persistent fears and does not receive professional assistance. The child may develop serious educational or social problems if away from school and friends for an extended period of time. The parents and child can benefit from seeing a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who will work with them in an effort to immediately return the child to school and other important daily activities.
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