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Parent Today helps parents navigate four “chapters” of children’s lives: early learners, elementary school, middle years and high school. Each bimonthly e-newsletter will feature stories relevant to corresponding academic and developmental stages of children. Parent Today will also respond to current issues and provide information on the ever-changing education landscape.

Middle Years

Tweens and early teens face a whole new set of challenges in middle school. As they move toward increased independence, they still need their parents’ guidance and boundaries. Parent Today offers insight on helping children make the transition to middle school, dealing with sticky situations and understanding a child’s emotional development. By encouraging their children to try new endeavors and encouraging a positive attitude toward education, parents can help ease the trip through middle school.

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When illness is actually avoidance

The symptoms seem mild: headache, stomach ache, fatigue. But the complaints are fairly regular – and typically surface on school days.

If there are no obvious signs of illness, such as fever or vomiting, and a check with your pediatrician rules out physical factors, your child could be suffering from what psychologists call “school avoidance.” School avoidance is a child’s reaction to real or perceived pressures at school.

Among the issues that can trigger school avoidance:

  • anxiety about school work
  • fear of failure
  • problems with other children (teasing)
  • perception that a teacher is “mean”
  • threats of physical harm (from a bully)
  • actual physical harm

What can you do?

1. Talk to your children about the reasons they don’t want to go to school. Ask them if there are any situations that are making them anxious. Be specific, such as, “Is someone giving you a hard time during lunch?” Give your child strategies to help resolve the issue.

2. Enlist the help of school staff. Talk to his teachers, the principal and school nurse about the situation. The school nurse can help your child if he develops symptoms while in school and encourage him to return to class.

3. If your child is being bullied, school intervention is necessary. Talk to school staff to determine if measures can be taken to ease the pressure on your child in the classroom or elsewhere at school. Be an advocate for your child.

4. Let your children know you understand their concerns, but insist they return to school. Remind them that attending school is required by law, and the longer the absence, the more difficult it will be to return. Be encouraging but firm.

If school avoidance persists, talk to your child’s pediatrician. A consultation with a child psychiatrist or psychologist may be recommended.

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additional resources

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If you are concerned about your child’s academic performance in any area,

first speak with your child’s teacher. If you still have questions or concerns, contact your district’s Special Education office. They can help ensure that your child receives any special services he or she may need as early as possible.