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When School Isn't Cool


School attendance is pretty much mandatory for all American kids, right? Many love getting up and heading out the door every day. But for every happy kid, there's another who dislikes going to school. If your kid is among the school haters, life can be pretty stressful for both of you.

Crying, tantrums, and refusing to get dressed: kids will put up a pretty good fight when there is something they don't want to do. As a parent, you know you have to choose your battles—is this one to fight, or should you just give in and let your child stay home? Unless you're prepared to homeschool, this is definitely a necessary battle to wage, mama. It will only get harder to go back for each day your kid skips school.

Reasons Children Don't Like School

Kids don't like school for many reasons. Some might easier to pinpoint—if your child struggles with learning to read, for example, s/he might find school frustratingly hard—than other more subtle things (we've heard of kids not wanting to go to school because they don't want to have to use the school restrooms!). Social issues are huge for kids. The need for friends and to fit in, bullying, and shyness are just a few of the reasons kids find issue with going to school. Problems with teachers, taking tests, not being comfortable talking or reading in front of the class, feeling trapped and without enough free time... the list of reasons kids give for not enjoying school goes on and on. And don't get them started on "gross" school lunch and mountains of homework!

How To Make School Cool

Unfortunately for your sweet pea, not going to school isn't an option. Which means it's up to you, mama, and hopefully some helpful teachers, school counselors, and coaches, to make school cool. Here are a few things to try:

  1. Talk with your child and the teachers to figure out what's going on with the reluctance to attend school. Keep the conversation as neutral as possible—you don't need to be a Pollyanna for organized education, but you certainly don't want to contribute to negative thoughts either.
  2. With your child, try brainstorming ideas that might help with the problems. If your kid has several issues, divide them into categories and consider solutions for each separately. Then talk with your child about trying out one or two of the suggestions, and agree on a timeframe for giving them a chance. When even little kids take ownership of their problems and implement their own solutions, they tend to be more invested in their success.
  3. Work outside of school to tackle in-school issues. If your child complains that s/he doesn't have any friends, organize an after-school playdate or enroll your child in an activity where s/he'll have more chance to get to know classmates. For academic concerns, speak to your child's teacher about what you can do to help your child be successful. If behavior issues are the problem, meet with the school counselor for their take on the situation.
  4. Aim for healthy lifestyle practices at home that will set your child up for the best possible school day. Think consistent bedtimes, balanced breakfasts, and homework routines. Aim for calm mornings by prepping lunches, clothes, and backpacks the night before. Commit to getting to school on time. Showing up tardy make it harder for your child to settle into the class's rhythm.

Whatever you do, don't ignore your child's concerns. School is a major part of kid life for many years, so guiding your little one on a positive educational path should be a goal you have as a parent. Of course, there will be plenty of minor issues that pop up throughout your child's schooling, and you won't have to involve yourself in all of them. But don't brush off a young child's repeated reluctance or refusal to go to school without trying to get to the bottom of what's going on.

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