Parenthood is full of challenges both big and small. The first days or weeks of preschool, kindergarten, middle school, and high school are high on the stress list for both you and your child. But when the moment of transition has passed yet anxiety and discontent continue, there are few words more distressing for a parent to hear than “I hate school!”
What’s a parent to do?
Seek The Root Cause
Whether you’re dealing with a younger student who may not yet be fully capable of explaining his or her feelings, or a high schooler reluctant to confess his or her troubles, drilling down to the root cause of the problem is the best first step toward addressing it. Consider the following tactics:
- Find a quiet time to initiate a private conversation with your child to prompt them to share their feelings.
- For older or reticent children, be prepared take advantage of the rare moments they’re willing to share, such as during the car ride to or from school or when they descend from their bedrooms for an afternoon snack.
- Be patient. This conversation may be difficult, and it will likely take multiple attempts to unearth the deepest problem.
- Listen empathically, without judgment or interruption, in order to build trust and encourage sharing.
Address The Fundamental Issue
According to educators and psychologists, there are four general reasons why kids struggle in school:
- They are struggling academically.
- They are struggling socially.
- They are struggling behaviorally
- They are struggling emotionally
Children who are struggling academically may be bored and uninspired by the curriculum. Alternatively, they may be manifesting difficulties related to their individual learning processes or showing the first signs of a previously-undetected, underlying learning disability.
Children who are struggling socially may be a bit behind their peers in social acumen, perceive the classroom environment as hostile, or they could be witnessing or be the victims of bullying.
Children who are having behavioral difficulties in the classroom may be struggling with the new, more rigid routines and finding issue with the authority figures who enforce them.
Children who are struggling emotionally may have separation issues or have a particular sensitivity to the pressure of tests, deadlines, and expectations.
Seek A Fresh Perspective
Whatever the source of your child’s discontent, checking in with teachers and administrators is a vital step in getting an objective perspective. They know what is happening in the classroom and may be able to pinpoint the source of your child’s anxiety more easily than the child herself. Once alerted to your child’s particular issue, teachers and administrators can work proactively to get your child any special help he or she may need as well as address any discord in the classroom.
A child’s shout of “I hate school” is really a cry for help. By listening emphatically to their worries and eliciting the help of educators, you’re taking proactive steps to make school a better experience for them, and you.