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What to do when a child refuse going back to physical school?

As the fourth wave of the pandemic is under better-controlled, physical schooling will be resumed gradually after the Chinese New Year holiday. For some students, resuming of physical schooling is exciting news because they are longing for school activities and meeting with their friends. However, some students may feel reluctant to go back to school due to different reasons. It is expected that there will be some cases of school refusal when physical schooling resumed.

When dealing with school refusal of students, we need to figure out the underlying reasons for this act. One of the possible reasons is that the student may find some school-related stimulus anxiety provoking. For instance, a student refused going to school because one of her teachers scolded her once in class. The student experienced high level of anxiety when going to school because attending the classes of such teacher provoked her anxiety. As she wanted to avoid the anxiety, so she refused going to school.

Another reason for school refusal is that the student may try to escape from aversive social or evaluative situations. For instance, the student experienced high level of social anxiety when having to answer teachers’ questions in class. He worried a lot about being negatively evaluated by his classmates if he made mistakes in answering those questions. He may also tend to refuse schooling if he needed to do presentations in class.

Some students may refuse schooling because they try to seek others’ attention. They tended to be non-compliant and exhibiting disruptive behaviours to stay out of school. For example, a student may throw tantrums every day in the morning in order to escape from going to school.   For another group of students, school refusal may be due to the pursuing of tangible rewards outside of school. For instance, these students may spend excessive amount of time with friends outside school.

For those refuse schooling due to the escape from anxiety-provoking stimulus or aversive social evaluative situations. A hierarchy of exposure exercise for going back to school is helpful. The students may be encouraged to try to expose to schooling gradually with exposing to the level of lowest anxiety. Anxiety management skills should also be taught to these students.

For those who refuse school due to attention seeking, help should be provided for parents to shift the attention to the students from school refusal to appropriate school attendance behaviours. For those who refuse schooling because of other tangible rewards obtained outside school, the therapist needed to cooperate with the parents to increase rewards for school attendance and decreasing rewards for school absence.

Due to the pandemic, normal physical schooling is suspended for a prolonged period. As a result, teachers and parents need to pay attention to adjustment issues of students and deal with the issue of school refusal according to the underlying reasons for such behaviour.

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