Christine Willing, M.Ed., NCSP,
My child hates school: Tips from a therapist
Highlights from this blog
· Ask your child clarifying question to get to the root of the problem.
· Validate your child’s feelings and create a list of solutions together.
· Make sure your child has a safe space to express their emotions.
Every kid complains about school sometimes. But if you’re hearing the words, “I hate school,” every single morning, there may be something more going on. So today, I want to help you figure out why your child dislikes school so much and what you can do about it.
In my therapy practice, I always approach children who hate school with a belief that they can learn to like (or even love) school. It just takes the right support, the right teacher fit, and a plan to address any underlying issues.
And the best part? You don’t need to be a licensed therapist to change your child’s perspective on school. You have everything you need to inspire a love for learning right now. So let’s get started!
Get to the root of the problem
There are a lot of reasons kids don't like school. Teacher/student mismatch, bullies, struggles in certain subjects—the list is endless. So it’s best not to guess.
Do what therapists do and ask your child clarifying questions to get to the root of the problem. Here are some questions to get you started:
· What do you hate about school?
· Is there a class or subject you don’t like?
· Is there a specific person you don't get along with?
· Do you hate school every day, or are there some good days?
· Is there anything about school that you do like?
When your child answers these questions, don’t disagree with them. Make sure to validate their concerns by saying that you understand why they feel that way.
For a child, anger and hate are the easiest ways to express deeper emotions. These clarifying questions will help you figure out if fear, nervousness, separation anxiety, or another strong emotion is the underlying cause of their discomfort at school.
Create a list of solutions
As a parent, we often think we know better than our children how to solve a problem. But as a therapist, I find that my clients often have a pretty good idea how to solve their own problems. So ask your child what would make school better.
At first, you’re likely to hear something like, “Don't make me go to school.” Obviously, that won't work, so dig a little deeper.
A great way to prompt your child for solutions is to ask them, “If you could change one thing about school, what would it be?” Their answer should give you a great starting point for developing solutions.
Whatever you do, don't try to solve the problem yourself. Work together with your child to come up with a few ideas of what could make school better. This list will form the basis of your plan in the next step.
Come up with a plan together
Now that you’ve identified the problems and listed out a few solutions, it’s time to put a plan into action. But don’t do it on your own.
Therapists are trained to empower the client towards change, not give advice or tell the client how to change. The same holds true for parents working with their children. The best way to make sure your child sticks to the plan is to develop it with them.
Go through the list of solutions you both created and try to come up with some concrete steps about how to make progress with each solution. If some of the solutions aren't very realistic, try and advise your child on a compromise.
Be patient. And whatever you do, don’t invalidate their feelings by saying, “You just have to suck it up. Everyone has to go to school.” Say supportive things like, “I know that you are really angry. Let’s try to come up with a few ways to make school better.”
If your child is resistant to discussing a plan, give them some time to think about it and then revisit your plan a few days later.
Make sure your child has someone to talk to
Once you have a plan in place, check in with your child to see how it’s progressing. If the plan isn’t working, and your child is still insistent that they hate school, you may need to consider bringing in additional support.
Children have a lot of emotions and need to have safe spaces to let them out. Just like we have multiple friends and family members who we look to for support, your child may need more perspectives than just yours.
Try to find someone else who they can open up to: A family friend, a teacher, a school counselor, or a therapist.
These other figures can provide different perspectives and can give your child a safe space to express what kinds of support they need to make school more tolerable.
Don't give up! Kids can learn to love school
Hating school can have a negative impact on your child mentally, emotionally, and academically. That’s why it’s so important to address these feelings as soon as they arise. And whatever you do, don't give up!
By talking to your child, brainstorming solutions, developing a plan, and giving them a safe place to express their emotions, you can help them discover (or rediscover) a love for learning that will last a lifetime!
What do you do when your child says they hate school? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you’re looking for a therapist who can help your child navigate the challenges of school, get it touch with us!
Christine Willing, M.Ed., NCSP, is the CEO & founder of Think Happy Live Healthy, a psychological therapy and wellness company in northern Virginia. As a Licensed School Psychologist, she helps kids and families navigate the stress of school with resiliency and positivity. When she’s not seeing patients, Christine enjoys life at the beach, listening to podcasts, and walking her adorable dog, Latte. Follow her on Instagram at thinkhappylivehealthy.