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Kids Who Cry When They Go to School

by Leyla Norman

School can be a stressful event for children, especially younger ones who have not been away from home very much. Finding out why your child cries when she has to go to school takes some investigation. Trying to solve any problems that are causing her to want to stay home may take some perseverance, but it is worth the time and effort to get her excited about school. She will begin to want to go to school, and drop-off will be less stressful for both of you. You can begin to look forward to hearing how amazing her school day was when you pick her up.

The Age

Kindergarteners may tend to want to stay home from school more than older children, especially if they have not had preschool experience. For 5- year-olds, school is still a new concept. Even if your child has had a babysitter, separation anxiety can still set in because school is more demanding than being with a babysitter. In school, usually one adult cares for the needs of many children, so the teacher may not be able to meet all your child’s needs immediately, and this may make him feel anxious, says Joshua Sparrow, a child psychiatrist cited on Scholastic.com. Being away from home and parents can be difficult for older kids, though, especially after a holiday break, according to Dr. Patrick McGrath, writing for AboutKidsHealth.ca.

What is the Problem?

Dr. McGrath suggests that separation anxiety may not be the cause of your child's crying. Ask your child if there is a bully, if there is something the teacher does that upsets him or if there is another reason why he doesn’t want to go to school. Discuss the situation with other parents of kids in your child’s class. Talk to the teacher, as she may be aware of a situation going on in class that could be causing your child distress.

Making it Better

Ensure that your child gets enough sleep, eats well and does not have to rush out the door in the morning. Not getting good sleep can lead to behavior and learning difficulties, according to Dr. Stacie Bunning, a clinical psychologist writing for GreatSchools.org. Children who don't get enough sleep can be defiant and be overly sensitive, according to Emily Deans, M.D. of PsychologyToday.com, and these behavior traits can lead to crying. Stay in contact with his teacher to brainstorm ways to support his going to school. For example, you might talk up all the fun things that your child gets to do at school encourage your child to be the teacher at home and teach you what he learned one day. Another idea is to let your child choose a favorite CD to play in the car and choose the songs he wants to hear to give him a sense of control over the day. Take your child to school events. Let him spend time with his classmates after school and on the weekends. Sign him up for after-school events. The more your child connects to what goes on at school, the less likely he will cry when he has to go to school. Fuel his excitement by getting him involved at school.

Your Emotions

If your child senses that you are upset about her crying when it is time to go to school, she is likely to become even more anxious. Drop her off quickly, and do not stay. Reassure her that you will be there to pick her up after school, and head off to start your day. Make your good-byes upbeat so that your child will sense safety instead of anxiousness. You might also ask someone else to drop her off to see if that changes the pattern of crying. If you have changed your drop-off procedures and early morning routines and your child still cries at drop-off, ask your pediatrician for referral to a mental health practitioner who can provide some additional support for your child and you.

About the Author

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.

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