We talk about school phobia a lot today, but could you recognize it in your child? Here are some signs that can suggest this suffering, which we discussed with Dr. Laure Legardinier, child psychiatrist.
A child who would prefer to stay having fun at home, rather than going to school, is common. But when this desire gives way to a real fear of going to school day after day, the situation can quickly overwhelm the child and the parents who do not understand where this obstacle comes from. What are the signs that may indicate what is called school phobia? We spoke about it with Dr Laure Legardinier, child psychiatrist in Rouen.
Signs that suggest school phobia in your child
For the child psychiatrist who has studied the subject for 20 years, it is possible to distinguish school phobia from temporary anxiety by concrete signs:
- Anxiety present. Anything that is a symptom of anxiety in the morning, when leaving or the evening before when you have to return to school. “This can lead to anxiety attacks and panic attacks. she teaches us;
- Somatization. The younger the child, the more somatic symptoms he or she may experience: stomach aches of course, but also discomfort, dizziness, back pain, chest pain, joint pain, blurred vision, walking problems, dyspnea…;
- The anxiety is recurring. Despite the discussions, the fact of being positive, the child presents anticipatory anxiety, as the time to leave for school approaches, and starts again inexorably each day;
- But the anxiety disappears as soon as the child leaves the context. When a child is told to stay at home, or during school holidays, the pain quickly disappears. “The child is also inclined and willing to work at home…at least at first” specifies our expert;
- The child rationalizes. “In general, the child does not explain his condition but seeks to rationalize his symptoms with secondary explanations: he is stressed by a test, he does not find the course interesting… but does not question his own anxiety.”
- He has no difficulty outside of the educational sphere. “He can even be confident and sociable during extra-curricular activities, can have friends, which is then quite confusing.”
Indices which can come into play at various times during schooling, but often experience three “peaks”: between 5 and 7 years old at the start of primary school, at the start of 6th grade when the rules change child faces a more distant relationship with teachers, and a new organization. Finally, around 15 years old.
“School phobia can also be triggered after a change, a separation, a move, or even after a period spent at home, due to sick leave, or even a vacation. We often have new patients on this subject just after the All Saints’ Day holidays, when the children spent 2 weeks at home” testifies our expert.
How to react to school phobia?
Do you suspect an emerging or established school phobia in your child? Dr Legardinier invites parents in this situation to first contact their treating doctor. “He is the first professional to consult, for stomach aches etc., who will be able to objectify the situation and check the health of your child.”
The second step according to her would be to communicate with the establishment and the teaching staff on the subject. “The school often remains a good partner in dealing with school phobias, which it knows well. And teachers who are aware of this are ready to make some adjustments to restore confidence in the child.”
Finally, if anxiety sets in, if the symptoms do not disappear and if the first measures are not enough, our expert advises consulting a child mental health professional.
“This is not a situation that should be left to drag on for a whole year. Often, parents feel guilty and accumulate sick leave, or seek to justify their child’s absences. But behind the notion of school phobia, can also hide from other pathologies, from anxiety to personality disorders, or even harassment too.” So many good reasons to take the subject seriously for the well-being of the child.