What makes someone afraid of school? What makes someone afraid of anything in fact? In my opinion, more often that not, fear is a result of the unknown, the unfamiliar. A large number of young people who are afraid of school are actually afraid of it because they see no means to connect their experiences there to their experiences which are a part of their ‘normal’ and ‘safe’ home life.
For many children, they go to school and it is the first time that they are really challenged by an adult. A teacher will turn to them and ask them to give an opinion, or answer a question in front of several other people. This is entirely foreign to lots of children, and as such, it terrifies them. If, on the other hand, a child is used to being challenged at home, because their parents regularly ask them their opinions, or because as a family, they sit down together and solve simple logic puzzles or look at the day’s news and discuss it, then even from a very young age, the child will not be intimidated by this behavior from teachers, since it mirrors the behavior they are used to seeing in the ‘safe’ environment of home, with their parents. This will remove the fear of the unknown from the school environment.
The same applies to interaction with other children. If a child has been used to meeting with other children, at a nursery or other play group, and having to share, and communicate nicely with them, then having to do this at school will not come as such a shock to them.
The best thing that a parent whose child is afraid of school can do it to mirror the kind of situations they will come across at school in home life, putting them across as safe, normal and entirely ordinary, so that the child simply sees them as a part of day to day life, not something peculiar to school. Praise is another important element. When a child responds well by solving a problem or giving an opinion in front of others, or simply sharing a favorite toy in the home environment, they must be given lots of praise for it. They will then see this as desirable behavior which gets good results, and be keen to display it with other adults, such as teachers, in order to gain similar praise. They will receive this praise for speaking out to answer questions in class and giving opinions, and will strive to continue in this manner. The more they are praised at school, the more they will enjoy their time there, and the fear will subside.
One other element of the child’s home life can serve to drastically influence their view of school is when a parent has not enjoyed his or her own school years, and often, without even meaning to, this view of school can be transmitted to the child, so it is important to be very aware of how we let children see our own opinions of something like this. Parents should do all they can to emphasize the positive points about school years and what advantages can be gained, and what fun can be had, avoiding reference to the negative.