Children all over the country are completing their first weeks of a new school year, as a new term starts. For some children new classrooms, new teachers and new classmates bring excitement as they eagerly explore new activities. For others, this time period isn’t as easy.
Having some level of nerves about going into new situations is totally normal and wears of quickly for most people. Some children aren’t so lucky and their anxiety surrounding school attendance can become so disabling that they refuse to attend at all. The distress levels can become so strong that some children report weeks or months of absenteeism.
Refusing to go to school doesn’t always mean that there are problems present within the school environment. Sometimes there is bullying or ongoing issues with school staff that make the school an unpleasant environment, but often the triggers lie within the child and their home environment. Anxiety, depression and family crisis’s have all been found to be linked to higher rates of school absenteeism. Transition times are particularly tough; once a child is in a routine it’s much easier to sustain it than stopping and starting. This means that while this week and next week might be particularly tough, there is hope that things can improve.
The 2020 Children’s World Project placed UK children at the bottom of the table for subjective well-being. That means that UK school-aged children are self-reporting that they are among the least happy children in the world. Skipping school because of feelings of anxiety and overwhelm can quickly cause the issue to snowball; missing school intensifies both the academic pressures and social pressures, setting up a vicious cycle in which the more a young person is absent, the more they want to stay out.
While noone knows the exact figures of how many children are at the point of refusing the attend school, the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), which provides support to schools, says it has noticed an increase in referrals of pupils exhibiting school refusal during 2020 and 2021. In some cases the reluctance to engage with school had been present before the pandemic, but in other cases the pandemic has definitely been a precipitating factor.
Children with school refusal are often highly anxious and need emotional support; if you suspect that your child may be experiencing significant anxiety about returning to school it may be a wise idea to reach out to a professional therapist to help them gain the support and skills that they need to successfully navigate their fears.
The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) says that hypnotherapy can help a child deal with the issues that they are facing, including anxiety and worry about the unfolding situation. This allows the child to return to classes without further interruption to their studies and without the potential harmful side effects of medication. During hypnotherapy sessions the therapist can help the student set goals for how they would like to feel, identify the root causes and work with the student to create strategies for getting them back to school feeling calm and confident. Hypnotherapy has the added benefit of helping clients “enjoy a general sense of wellbeing, the ease to be present and enjoy life less distracted by [unhelpful] thoughts”.
Many of the nearly 3,000 trained, insured and registered hypnotherapists on the NCH therapist finder have additional training to support working with children and adolescents, making them an ideal resource for your family during this time.