The school year is going well, and everyone has adjusted to school routines. Then suddenly, your happy-go-lucky child is lagging through the morning schedule and crying before leaving to meet the bus. Here are some tips for detecting why things have gone into disarray.

  • First, narrow down the problem. Is there a reluctance to leave home because of the desire to be with mom or dad, or is there a problem on the bus or at school?
  • If the issue is separation from mom and dad, it is important to not reinforce this problem and to continue to encourage school attendance.
  • Stay positive and enthusiastic about school.
  • Explain that school is much like your child’s job and that you have a job somewhat like school. Your child’s responsibility is to learn, make friends, have fun, and follow school rules. Your job obligations, whether outside or inside the home, are somewhat alike.
  • Discuss activities you do while your child attends school and help your child imagine the family fun that you will share when both of you return home—a helpful reassurance if your child is one who worries about your well being during school.
  • Work with the bus driver to develop a plan for handling emotional outbursts, perhaps a reward system for getting on the bus that can be lessened as the child becomes more comfortable.
  • If your child has had no problems with separation before, you may be dealing with a problem occurring on the bus or at school. This needs some further detective work.
  • Work as a team with the adults involved—your child’s teacher, bus driver, and school counselor—to explore causes and identify issues. School personnel want your child to be happy and to enjoy school.
  • Remember that your child’s perception is your child’s reality. Your child can perceive something that seems very minor to adults as a major issue.
  • If your child is unable or unwilling to express concerns verbally, encourage your child to draw pictures or use toys to reflect his or her fears or concerns.

Despite the cause, acknowledge your child’s feelings as valid and important. By doing so, you will let him know that you care and will encourage future discussions.

By Ellen Begley, M.A. Ed., LPC, NCC, R.N.

Ellen is a registered nurse as well as a licensed and national board certified counselor. She has a private practice that serves children ages 2 to 18 and has over 18 years of experience counseling children and educating parents.