When you send your child to a new school, you have high hopes for all of the discovery that awaits her. So when your child comes home and says she hates school, it’s crushing.
This is frighteningly common. Students are expected to complete increasingly difficult tasks at an earlier age. Teachers are pushed to cover a broad expanse of material in record time in order to meet minimum scores on standardized tests.
One of the most common reasons children say they hate school is because of the mismatch between teaching style and learning style. Auditory learners who can hear something and comprehend it will have an easier time adapting to various classrooms, compared to a student who needs to touch and manipulate something to more easily comprehend.
Another common reason relates to social concerns. Particularly in a new school, kids may feel disconnected, lonely, or outcast. In the worst of these cases, your student may feel bullied by others, and could need help finding her own voice and support.
If your child states those terrible three words “I hate school," be prepared with the following advice:
Your child’s concerns are very real to her, even if she may have trouble articulating them. Angst that is not conveyed verbally may be conveyed behaviorally. If your child seems particularly upset, try to get her to talk about what is bothering her. Tease out the root of the problem, and help your child figure out solutions to solve it. Allowing your child to talk teaches her that you care, and her problems matter. It also builds her adult brain (executive functioning) and helps her feel more confident about sticking up for herself. This works with even young kids, although they may need more help with self-advocacy.
If your child senses that you don’t approve of the school, she is more likely to see it negatively as well. If you emphasize that problems can have solutions, she’ll be more likely to try and solve them.
If you feel that the problem is a social one, help your child practice approaching new friends and asking to play, or introducing herself. Find a club or sport that is interesting that will immediately allow her into a group of kids with a common interest. If the problem appears to be academic, help your child find a way to connect what she discussed at school to her own personal interests. Set up activities at home that tie her homework with real-life experience, like using pennies to count or finding sight words in favorite books at home.
Particularly at the beginning of the year, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable with a new school, new kids, and new teachers. Some problems just need time to resolve themselves and allow your kids to settle into the routine and discover positive experiences on her own.
If several weeks have gone by and your student still dreads that big yellow bus, it may be time to talk to the teacher and see what you can plan together. You can request additional academic support, share what makes your child curious and how she learns best. Maybe your student could use a brain buddy — a safe friend to turn to for homework help or social help. Many schools even have social groups specifically for this purpose.
If at any point you feel like your child is not safe at school or on the bus, speak up immediately to teachers or the principal. Everybody has a right to feel safe and welcome at school.