Sep 05 2022

Why Your Preschooler Doesn't Like School and What You Can Do to Help Them

David Mason

Case Studies

As they prepare their children for kindergarten, Singapore parents frequently find themselves concerned about whether or not their child will take to school well. While we might all hope for our little ones’ first forays into school to be joyful, exciting adventures, the reality is that many kids will find going to preschool a distressing and upsetting experience at first. Some children will take a long time to warm up to teachers and classmates or refuse to participate in classroom activities. In extreme cases, a child may refuse to go to school entirely and engage in disruptive behaviors like crying, screaming, and throwing tantrums.

Although it can be upsetting and even frustrating to deal with preschoolers who don’t like school, rest assured that there are many ways to help your child overcome this problem. The first thing you need to do is look into the cause of your child’s school refusal. From there, you can work with both your child and their school on getting them comfortable enough to go back to class. On the whole, you have to strike a balance between emphasizing the value of going to school and acknowledging your child’s thoughts and feelings.

This short guide can help you figure out why your preschooler refuses to go to school. It will likewise walk you through some practical steps you can take to help them get over their school refusal. 

Recognizing School Refusal

School refusal, while not an official psychiatric diagnosis, is a useful name for the particular behavioral and emotional problem it describes. It’s when the idea of going to school distresses a child so much that they become extremely upset. Often, this distress persists for a long time and may make it hard for them to even leave the house. Some children may miss school entirely, whether for just one day or for several days at a time. 

School refusal is most commonly an issue for children in primary school, though many young people at the secondary school level may also experience it. Disruptive behaviors like tantrums are probably the most common sign of school refusal. However, you may also notice your child complaining of aches and pains or of illness in the mornings before school. If these instances consistently recur, it may be worth investigating further.

Understanding the Possible Causes of School Refusal

Children don’t refuse to go to school for no reason. School refusal is also rarely linked back to just one cause. A child may be fearful about leaving home, for example, particularly if they’ve just had a stressful experience with parents or siblings. They may be experiencing problems with people they know at school, like their teachers or classmates. Many children may refuse to go to school when they begin formal schooling for the first time or when they’ve just moved to a new neighborhood.

School refusal may also be caused by or connected to phobias, learning disabilities, or psychological problems like anxiety and depression.

How You Can Help

Understanding why your child hates school is the first crucial step to getting them back into the classroom. Talk with your child about their experiences at school and encourage them to tell you what they dislike about it. Younger children may find it easier to rate parts of their school day, such as their ride to school, their interactions with teachers, their classroom activities, and so on. You may also help them clarify how they feel by having them point to symbols like smiley faces or sad faces. 

Once you’ve identified the cause of your child’s school refusal, you can begin to brainstorm with them about how to fix the problem. Make it clear to your child that while you understand their feelings, it’s in their best interest for them to continue going to school. Emphasize to them that you’ll work together to make attending their classes a comfortable, enjoyable, and productive experience for them. 

To help your child better address their negative feelings about school, it also helps to work closely with their teachers and concerned administrators. Your child’s homeroom or classroom teacher is usually the best person to start with. Discuss your child’s problem in detail and ask what assistance the school can provide with regard to the issue. Some examples of institutional support include anti-bullying measures or access to counseling. Most importantly, you and the school should commit to communicating regularly about your child’s needs and progress.

It may also help to ask your child’s preschool if they might be allowed to start attending classes gradually. Negotiating a shorter school day, for example, or having them attend only their favorite classes at first might help them build the confidence and resilience they need to come back full-time.

No matter what might be causing their dislike of school, your child will need your love and support to overcome their anxieties. Develop a concrete plan, and treat your child with care and patience as they work through the underlying problems. No matter how much they might dislike school at first, they’ll definitely be able to turn their situation around with your help.

Tags: kindergarten, Singapore,experiencing problems with people they know at school