The refusal to go to school is often caused by these types of anxiety: separation anxiety, social anxiety, or performance anxiety (e.g. speaking in front of a big crowd) or anxiety which is caused by test performance, sports event, and academic difficulties mentioned beforehand. This is a way for those students feeling anxious to escape from that moment or situation in the hopes of getting the attention of their parent or guardian for security. For some, they may feel that the lack of belongingness to their peers and the environment they have at school may cause them to struggle fitting in. The feeling of humiliation in failing adds to their fears and worries which will then lead to students not showing up to their classes. Some students also feel violated because of bullying is which is rampant in the school environment today. It may be bullying from classmates, older kids in the playground or a gang causing them to feel emotionally disturbed and agitated.
School related anxiety is said to transpire mostly after long holidays or vacations, when school is about to start, or about to end, or even during weekends. Because children feel secure at home and have been away from school, their anxiety kicks in the moment they start thinking about school again. It is said that this problem happens mostly among kindergarten and a more serious problem occur as they transition from primary school to high school.
Mary Wimmer, PhD (West Allis-West Milwaukee School District, WI) cited common warning signs to spot on anxiety related problems at school as well supportive measures and interventions as to how to address them.
Common Warning Signs


It is critical that both parents and educators learn to recognize common warning signs of school refusal and respond quickly. These include:
  • Frequent unexcused absences or tardiness
  • Absences on significant days (tests, speeches, physical education class)
  • Frequent requests to go to the nurse’s office (sick Bay) despite no apparent signs of illness
  • Frequent requests to call home or go home during the day
  • Major family event/trauma, sleep difficulties, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, or irritability
  • Difficulty or resistance to getting out of bed in the morning to go to school despite no apparent signs of illness
Supportive Strategies


There are many other steps that educators can take to help support students and families dealing with school refusal:
  • Encourage parents to set up regular evening and morning routines, reinforce their child’s positive behaviours (participation efforts), and ignore negative behaviours (crying, whining).
  • Assist parents in bringing a reluctant or acting-out child into the school. Work with parents to effectively respond to their child’s complaints about school, while clearly ensuring that the child attends school.
  • Work with parents to monitor attendance, particularly for older students.
  • Welcome the separation-anxious child when he or she arrives at school. Help the child become involved in getting organized for the day. Give the child special jobs, such as handing out papers or collecting books. Praise and encourage the child and provide comfort to younger students when they are upset.
  • Set up rewards for school attendance.
  • Assign a peer buddy at recess or lunch to help a socially anxious child feel more comfortable. Some schools issue personal invitations to events and activities to help students feel welcome.
  • Provide tutoring and other academic interventions and supports for students who have academic difficulties.
  • Show sensitivity to students with performance anxiety. Reduce the need for the student to give speeches or provide an alternate test-taking environment.
  • Provide a safe harbor with the counsellor, nurse, or school psychologist where the student can go when feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
  • Address school safety issues through antibullying and antiviolence initiatives. Students need to know that adults will intervene when they feel unsafe or threatened.
  • Create a welcoming, engaging environment that helps students feel connected to their school and teachers. N Involve families in the school through outreach and after school programs.

If you fear that your child is suffering any form of anxiety and would like help, contact us at Lil’ Wise Wonders where we can offer support and technique that is used to help reduce these feelings. 


The mind is a powerful thing we just need to use it to our advantage.