School refusal - I don't know what to say!

Does anyone have experience with school refusal? My son has recently started year 1 and is already finding the switch from lots of play to more focused learning really challenging. He’s upset about the reduction in “choosing time” and struggling to focus with phonics. Every morning he is asking me for a day off and I’m finding it really tough to know what to say - I want him to know that he is being heard but at the same time, he has to go to school. Any advice greatly appreciated!

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Hi @singlemumof1 , that’s really tough. The switch from being completely play based to a more academic focus can be really hard for some little ones. @Parent_Coach_Mel do you have any advice you could share with @singlemumof1?

Hi @singlemumof1. I’m afraid I don’t have any helpful experience I can share with you. Sending you love though. I hope your son settles in to Y1 soon. It is a big step up from Reception. I hope the school is being supportive x

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Hi singlemumof1 this situation sounds very difficult. It is a huge change moving up to Year 1 from Reception Class. What’s positive here is that you know what’s going on for your child and you understand that it’s important that he ‘feels heard’. Continue to remain calm, listen and reassure him. Praise his efforts and small achievements. Ensure you speak with the teacher and teaching assistant as they will have ideas on how to support him in class. This should get better with time once he is used to the routine and feels more confident with phonics. Some ideas you could try, from parents I have worked with in the past:

  • Increase the use of praise during the morning routine
  • During your reading time – share stories of characters overcoming difficulties, being brave and persevering.
  • Developing positive self-talk, “I can do this!” “I tried my best today!” – you could weave this into a role-playing with toys.
  • Both wear an invisible bravery cloak
  • Ensure to have specific ‘wind-down time after school, with an activity he can look forward to.
  • Put a heart-shaped piece of paper or other item in coat pocket to squeeze for good luck.
  • Reminding child of they are good at and what they have overcome in the past

I hope this helps. Well done for everything you have done so far. The Community is here for you.

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Thank you so much for this detailed reply. The teacher and TA are implementing some extra support for him because of his learning challenges but it’s also tricky because ultimately there are 32 children in the class, so how much support can he realistically get?! It’s very much the reality of so many schools right now and I’m not sure how best to navigate the balance of him needing more help but the teachers physically not having the capacity.

Thank you for the reminder about praise in the morning routine - I definitely rush too much and despite having everything ready the night before, we end up stressed and shouty. I like the idea of sharing stories of characters overcoming difficulties - will try it for sure.

Thanks again for all the tips, I’ll keep you posted!

Hi @singlemumof1,

Just wanted to check in and see how school went today for your son? Did he go in ok?

Sending you a big hug, school refusal is super tough.

Community Manager

Thanks for checking in @Community_Manager . It was a mixed week and it definitely gets worse as the week goes on and he gets more tired. I was standing at the gate with him on Friday and he was so tired and just constantly telling me he didn’t want to go in and it was heartbreaking. I just did my best to comfort him and told him I understood and that there was only 1 day left until the weekend and that I knew it was really hard. I also told him that I understood and that I didn’t want to go to work either but I’m trying my best and that’s all we can do. Not sure that’s the right approach?!

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I think you are doing everything you can @singlemumof1 , it’s a really tough one to get your son (and you) through. Please don’t hesitate to lean on the community as you need. Sending you a hug.

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