School Refusal in Children

School Refusal in Children

Written by: Jenn VanEtten

Do you know a child who does not want to go to school or attend virtual classes? Children can find going to school difficult at any age, especially in the new era of remote schooling. While it is normal for a child to refuse school occasionally, it is important to notice when this becomes regular behavior. Frequent refusal to leave the house for school, walk in the classroom, or login to class can have negative impacts on a child’s academic and socio-emotional development. 

What is School Refusal?
For some children, aspects of school may feel overwhelming and challenging, which may result in difficulty going to school and staying in class. This is known as school refusal, and students express it in many ways:
• Consistent difficulty getting a child out of bed and/or to class. 
• Frequent expression of headaches/stomachaches in order to miss instruction.
• Taking repeated and extended bathroom breaks during virtual learning.
• Hiding under a table or in another room during/before online class.
• Turning off the video during virtual learning

If school refusal behavior persists beyond 2-3 days within 2 weeks, it may be time to respond. It is important to go easy on yourself and your child, especially when navigating the novel process of K-12 learning from home. 

Why is it Important to Respond Early?
While school refusal behavior can be considered normal on occasion, continually avoiding class can negatively impact a child’s development. As a result of missing multiple lessons, they may fall behind in learning and experience increased anxiety about catching up—this cycle may be quick to snowball. Younger children with school refusal may be especially prone to difficulty developing healthy friendships with their peers. It is important to recognize this early in order to help children reframe their feelings toward school and prevent long-term consequences. 

What can Parents/Guardians do to Help?
Step in quickly and identify the issue. If a child is exhibiting school refusal behavior for longer than 2-3 days, take action. Gently ask them: “What is it about school that you do not like?” Are they frustrated with distance learning? Are they struggling academically? Maybe both? It’s also possible that neither are the problem and they just prefer to skip class because of a new toy or video game.
• Validate they’re challenges and address the issue. By validating your child’s feelings, you will encourage them to continue verbalizing their thoughts rather than acting on emotions. You might say “I agree that virtual learning is very difficult right now and it is important that you continue to login an participate in class ”. When addressing specific issues that cannot be fixed in the home, it may be best to reach out to a teacher or other school staff to come up with a plan.
Make missing class boring. Allowing a child to do as they please after refusing to attend school – whether in person or online— may reinforce the school refusal behavior. If a child will not engage in learning, you may want to restrict screen time, Wi-Fi access, and other activities that may be encouraging them to refuse school. Identify your child’s preferred activities and ensure they are not available alternatives to attending class.
Communicate and collaborate with school staff. Contact your child’s school counselor, psychologist, or socialworker and tell them what is happening. Depending on the problem, they may determine that it is best to intervene with the child in the class or through a virtual meeting. If the problem persists, ask them for more resources. 
Seek out other professional services. If none of the above are useful, consider contacting a local mental health provider. A common and effective treatment for school refusal behavior is cognitive behavior therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy helps by restructuring the child’s anxiety-inducing thoughts about school. 

Resources
If you are interested in reading a practical guide for parents/guardians to understand school refusal, check out this book!
https://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-School-Refusal-counsellors-caseworkers/dp/1925644049

To learn more about the early signs and outcomes for children that experience school refusal:
https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/kidsfamilies/youth/Documents/forum-speaker-presentations/2017/school-refusal-parent-handout.pdf

https://mi01000971.schoolwires.net/cms/lib/MI01000971/Centricity/Domain/678/School_Refusal_Information_for_Educators.pdf


A Guide to Supporting Your Child’s Nightime Sleep

A Guide to Supporting Your Child’s Nighttime Sleep

Written by: Caitlyn Chun

It’s hard to overstate the importance of sleep! Research with children has shown that sleep and sleep routines are associated with language development, literacy, emotional and behavioral regulation, parent-child attachment, and family functioning. Sleep affects a child’s development!

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amounts of sleep per day:
• Newborns (0-3 months) — 14 to 17 hours 
• Infants (4-11 months) — 12 to 15 hours
• Toddlers (1-2 years) — 11 to 14 hours
• Preschoolers (3-5 years) — 10 to 13 hours
• School-aged children (6 to 13 years) — 9 to 11 hours
• Teenagers (14 to 17 years) — 8 to 10 hours

Tips to a Better Night’s Sleep
1. Get moving during the day
Regular exercise is a fantastic way to encourage better sleep. To help your child wind down from the day, exercise should be avoided in the 3 hours before bedtime. 

2. Maintain a consistent nighttime routine and bedtime for your child
Prepare for bed at the same time each night. Repeat the same activities in the same order each night. For example, your child’s routine might consist of bathing, changing into their pajamas, brushing teeth, and listening to a bedtime story. Sticking to a consistent routine of calming activities can give your child a sense of predictability and security around bedtime.

3. Limit screen time before sleepingLimit screen time before sleeping
Research indicates that the use of screen media (computers, phones, tablets, and video game consoles) close to bedtime is related to delayed bedtimes, fewer hours slept, and to poor sleep quality for children and youth. Make a habit to put away screens for an hour before bedtime and to keep devices out of bedrooms as much as possible. 

4. Read bedtime stories together
Reading stories about appropriate bedtime behavior can help your child to understand your expectations. If your child has nighttime fears, it can help to read books that deal positively with the dark, for example. Any book reading at bedtime is a great way to increase relaxing quality time with you! 

5. Adjust the environment for sleeping
A dark, quiet room is ideal to encourage restful sleep. A night-light can be used to provide soft lighting if your child is afraid of the dark. It is helpful to be mindful of the noise and the light around your child when they are sleeping. 

6. Maintain a consistent wake time
Waking up at the same time each day will help to maintain your child’s sleep schedule. Letting your child “catch up” on sleep in the morning can push your child’s sleep schedule back, resulting in later bedtimes. When your child wakes up at the same time each day, they will be ready to sleep at their scheduled bedtime.

Sleep Resources
Zero to Three: Sleep Struggles? We’ve got Resources
Nationwide Children’s: Healthy Sleep Habits for Infants and Toddlers
Nationwide Children’s: Healthy Sleep Habits for Older Children and Teens
Seattle Children’s Hospital: Resources for Sleep Conditions (selected resources available in Spanish and Vietnamese)

Bedtime Story Resources
Bedtime Story Prompts for Parents
StoryBerries: Free Bedtime Stories  



 

Eat, Nap, Play, Repeat: Your Child and Routines


Eat, Nap, Play, Repeat: Your Child and Routines

Written by: Caitlyn Chun

Everyone has routines that work for them. Perhaps this morning began like most of your mornings do: shuffle to the bathroom, wash your face, and brush your teeth before making coffee. These regular patterns serve important functions in our daily lives. For instance, our morning routines help us transition from being asleep to being awake and being ready for the day. In general, routines help us with transitions, and they give us a sense of comfort and security. 

Benefits of Routines
For our children, routines serve a similar purpose. Research on routines suggests that they play a critical role in establishing a child’s sense of predictability, stability, and security. When children learn to anticipate a loved one’s return, and when they will nap, play, and snack, they gain a sense of emotional security knowing that there is a trusted adult to help meet their needs. In the toddler years, routines help build independence, trust, and security. For preschool and elementary-age children, the use of routines can reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity and aid the development of self-control. 

Routines and Learning
Routines are repeated, predictable events that form the foundation of our daily lives. These moments provide some of the richest learning experiences for child development. Through routines, you can teach your child a variety of skills. For instance, a regular bedtime routine teaches children important sleep skills, such as how to wind down for the night. In addition, you can teach safety skills through practicing a routine that consists of holding hands with an adult, and then looking both ways before crossing a street. Similarly, children can practice their social skills when interacting with others through sticking to the routine of starting with a greeting, chatting, and ending with a goodbye. 

Don’t Just Feed – Nourish
As you move through daily routines with your child, take advantage of the time together to be fully present in the moment. You might explain the importance of the activity that you are doing together. You might let them know what you expect of them. You may even share personal stories and experiences from your own childhood. These moments are important learning experiences for our kids, and they are emotionally recharging for both caregiver and child. In these moments, you have the opportunity not just to feed, but to nourish. 

Resources
CDC Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers: Creating Structure and Rules
Family-Based Routine Support Guide: Building Relationships with InfantsFamily-Based Routine Support Guide: Early Elementary — 4 to 8 years