As a child, many people fear, among other things, the dark, certain animals, and natural phenomena such as storms, but in most cases, these fears begin to evaporate as they age. However, there is one fear that children find really hard to deal with: school fear.
Phobias are called “developmental fears”. But what happens when fear erodes for too long and is so extreme that it really disrupts life? Because school is such an integral part of childhood and youth, fear of school can make it happen.
What exactly is fear of school?
Fear of school is virtually absurd and excessive fear of the school or certain school-related matters. This can make it difficult for many children to go to school or stay there all day.
Fear of school may be caused by:
- Fighting classmates or teachers.
- Academic performance problems.
- Repeated school changes.
- Home problems.
- Certain diseases and symptoms that come with them.
All of these situations can lead to a period of anxiety along with motor, physiological, and cognitive changes.
One of the main symptoms of school fear is negative thoughts about school. The child may begin to anticipate negative consequences (e.g., the teacher becoming scorned) for no reason.
A child with a fear of school is likely to have a negative view of their school performance. In addition, such a child may be stuck in an idea where he or she fears vomiting, fainting, or other physical symptoms while in front of classmates.
Avoidance is the main motor symptom. More clearly, a child with this phobia will start a fight (verbal or physical) when it’s time to go to school.
Among other things, he may say he is sore, not getting out of bed, not getting dressed, or not eating breakfast. He just simply doesn’t want to do any routine tasks to prepare for going to school. Even if he goes to school, he may cry, shout, or cling to his parents so he doesn’t have to go inside school.
Some of the most common physiological symptoms include sweating, muscle tension, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and dizziness.
Fear of school vs. separation anxiety
If you want to know if your child is suffering from school fear, you should first understand the difference between separation anxiety and school fear.
Separation anxiety is, in practice, a child’s fear of being separated from people with whom he or she has a strong spiritual bond, usually parents. It can happen at any time, like going to school or a class trip, or even just before a night out to visit a friend.
So you need to find out exactly why your child does not want to go to school. If there is separation anxiety behind his fear, he is unlikely to suffer from fear of school.
How to overcome school fear
There are several methods and techniques to help a child get over this phobia. According to many studies, the most effective ones are based on cognitive behavioral psychology. This field works on the assumption that changing thoughts leads to a change in behavior and vice versa.
The most common methods are:
- Systematic tolerance therapy. This can be especially helpful if a child is trying to avoid going to school. The technique works by exposing the child to fear gradually. The goal is to slowly reduce the child’s anxiety so that he or she realizes that nothing bad is going to happen.
- Improving social skills. Part of a child’s fear may be related to fighting classmates. If so, you can help your child learn social skills so that he or she is more willing to build relationships with other children in school.
- Cognitive reconstruction. Reconstruction involves changing a child’s rational or exaggerated beliefs. Doing this will help the child change the negative view he or she has towards the school, or make it more positive and realistic.
- Relaxation exercises. Learning to use relaxation techniques can help a child manage the physiological symptoms associated with anxiety.
Use of drugs for school fear
The main goal of dealing with fear of school is that the child ceases to feel anxiety, fear, or other discomfort. Although doctors prescribe medications (mainly antidepressants) in some cases, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons of this path.
Some studies state that the side effects of such drugs do not justify their use, as certain therapies have been shown to be effective. Therapy is generally the best and most effective option, and definitely the one with the longest lasting results.