Go to School, No Hitting, Be Nice and Listen to Your Teachers

By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D,

At the beginning of each school year I get a burst of phone calls from parents of children entering pre-school all the way up to seniors in high school. The problems are basically the same. These children have problems going to school or just being there.

Going to School is Hard

Getting up and going to school is not easy for a lot of kids. The biggest source of the problem are childrenís sleep habits and their sleep cycle. Research on sleep is showing that many children have great difficulty waking and functioning before 9am. This struggle is influenced by the effects of sunlight, the amount of exercise during the previous day and the activities of children once they wake up. Here are some suggestions that can work.

  • Make sure children get plenty of exercise and are tired at the end of the day.

  • No video games and internet use after 7 p.m.

  • Let the sunlight from a sunrise into the room.

  • Children should go to bed no later than 10 p.m. on school nights (earlier if they canít get up)

  • Get your child outside doing a chore in the morning before breakfast.

  • Be consistent in your actions and the routine you set up.

Some Children are Afraid of School. The second biggest source of problems are childrenís fears. Anxiety and fear mean the same thing. The most common anxieties include,

  • Social anxiety

  • Separation anxiety

  • Performance Anxiety

  • Fear of Mental and Emotional Abuse

Some Children Feel Sad and Lonely at School. School is a wonderful place for children who can deal with large crowds, social pressure, being alone and the possibility that they will fail in some academic or social situation. Most children can manage this degree of stress but many others are less excited than they are afraid. Other kids end up feeling awful when they try hard and do poorly. This awful feeling is compounded in a large classroom with an over worked teachers are not able to give children all the attention they need.

What Makes Things Better or Worse?

Helping children to effectively face their feelings can be easy in some cases and it can be incredibly difficult in others. The outcome depends on the child and the resources available to the parents and the school. Parents have less and less time these days and schools are facing financial crises. Donít blame the school. They have limited resources to handle a lot of children. Here are some suggestions that may help.

  • Parent coaching and education.

  • Counseling that involves education and stress management.

  • Consultation with your childís teachers.

  • Activities that build confidence in strategic areas.

  • Home schooling your children next summer to catch up.

  • Smaller class size (8 to 12 children).

  • Enroll your child in a smaller school.

Not many parents can afford to move to a small town or to enroll their child in a small private boarding school. But it is an option when all else fails and your childís well being is at stake. Finding a "coach" can also be a challenge. Schools have lists of professionals who work with parents and families.

There is one final thought to keep in mind. It is easy to make a problem worse. It is harder to make a difficult problem better. It is even harder to make most problems better quickly. Helping your child adjust, adapt and become successful takes time and effort. The best way to make a problem worse is to threaten, punish or humiliate a child if they are not successful. In most cases, problems will get better if we donít do things that make it worse. Contact your school counselor and get help if you think you are just making matters worse.

copyright 2002 to 2008, Michael G. Conner