They’re not alone.
Act for Kids has noticed an increase in the numbers of young children anxious and worried about going to school and fearful of being separated from loved ones, even for a school day, following multiple disruptions to the start of the school year.
“Sadly, the last two years have been hard on us all, but particularly so for young children. They have had two years of extended home-schooling and separation from loved ones during lockdowns, longer than normal school holidays and now floods, extreme weather events and war in Ukraine. We’re seeing high levels of extreme anxiety, school refusal and separation anxiety in early primary school aged children,” Doctor Katrina Lines, Act for Kids Chief Executive Officer said.
Our team have also heard from teachers who are struggling to re-engage kids following the disruptions to term one including the devastating floods and COVID-19 delays.
It’s normal for children to be a little anxious about starting school, especially at the beginning of the year. It’s a familiar scene with little ones off to Prep, grade one and two for the first time.
Act for Kids has seen a shadow pandemic of persistent negative social and emotional impacts on children and children at greater risk during lockdowns.
“Over the last two years we have had a 30% increase in referrals to our family support and therapy services.”
“We have parents ringing or emailing asking for tips on how to help their child manage anxiety at being away from family and going to school.
“Parents and carers are distressed themselves seeing their children so anxious, they want to know how to help,” Dr Lines said.
Act for Kids recommends some tips for helping families cope with anxious kids who don’t want to go to school.
1. Kids thrive in calm environments with predictable routines. Make sure your children know what is going to happen during the day so they aren’t thrown by something unexpected.
2. Avoid watching or listening to the news or discussing current events in the presence of young children.
3. If you’re worried about the world situation yourself, seek helpful ways to calm and support your wellbeing such as meditation and mindfulness, exercise and spending time with family doing fun things.
4. Let children know it’s ok to be worried but don’t reinforce their fears by letting them stay home from school.
5. Learn about child anxiety and evidence-based programs you can do at home to help kids. There are great resources available online for example the Cool Little Kids program, Beyond Blue and books like Helping Your Anxious Child.
It’s also invaluable parents talk to their child’s teacher and explain what is happening so supportive actions are taken at home and school.
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