If one day your child refused to go to school saying they had a phobia towards attending classes, what will you do? Take it seriously or regard it as another act to spend the day at home, and send them anyway?
As students in Shanghai returned to school last Friday to commence their new semester, many parents encountered the aforementioned issue, such as Wang, whose daughter Yutong, attends a key middle school in Shanghai.
You might think Yutong’s behavior was due to poor academic performance, however on the contrary, she is the top student in her class, in addition to winning many citywide singing and dancing competitions.
Being a principal herself, Wong is always confident in her way of educating, that was until last week’s incident with her daughter. “She said that she wanted to run away from school,” said Wang. “I thought she was bluffing at first. Then I realized she did feel sick. I could even see the fear in her eyes, which is quite inexplicable and unacceptable to me.”
It’s been confirmed, that instead of being a fictitious illness, school phobia (or school refusal) truly exists. “It refers to the illness which makes children feel fear or anxiety towards school due to emotional distress.” explains Zhang Yiwen, director of developmental behavioral pediatrics department at Shanghai Children's Medical Center, who treated many students last weekend.
According to Dr. Zhang, there are generally two types of students who tend to fall victim to school refusal. First are those who have recently commenced elementary school, where compared to the carefree days in kindergarten, they must face study pressures and adapt to a tighter schedule. The others are those who are about to face high school or college entrance examinations. They are eager to succeed and afraid to fail, and need to handle pressure from all angles.
“About 13.7 percent of students in Shanghai suffer from school phobia and the rate between boys and girls reaches 3:4,” supplements Dr. Zhang.
The question is how can parents deal with this disease once they identify something is wrong? “To reduce the pressure, parents first need to recalibrate their expectation towards their child. Don’t pay too much attention on their marks. Also, they can regulate their schedule, which is helpful when shifting from ‘vacation mode’ to ‘school mode.’ Staying up must be taken out of the equation.”
So, it seems that as bizarre as it may sound, school phobia is a diagnosed problem which parents may need to help their child manage. Thankfully, it’s never too late to provide comfort and guidance to help you child through their school years.