School phobia or didaskaleinophobia is a type of phobia in which people are afraid to go to school. This condition is most commonly seen in children, classically between the ages of eight and 13, and it can be very debilitating, especially if it is allowed to progress. A wide variety of techniques can be used to manage school phobia. Children with this condition usually benefit from seeing a psychotherapy professional who can help the child and provide assistance to help parents and school officials support the child.
This common phobia is associated with a wide variety of causes. It is often attributed to separation anxiety, but it can also be evoked by many different kinds of stress. A child who has recently moved, suffered a loss, or gone through a divorce may develop school phobia, and phobias can also develop in response to bullying, an undiagnosed learning disability, perception of a poor performance at school, or to particular teaching style. Understanding the cause of a school phobia is an important step in providing treatment.
A child with school phobia usually refuses to go to school, or protests extravagantly. He or she may become physically ill when ordered to school, or fake the symptoms of illness to avoid going. When the child arrives at school, he or she may run away rather than going to class, and the child can develop behavioral problems in class and on the playground. When school is discussed, the child can become sullen, upset, angry, or aggressive.
As soon as a school phobia is suspected, parents should take action to address it. Like other phobias, school phobia increases in severity the longer it is left untreated, and it can interfere with a child's success in school. Treatment can include psychotherapy as well as adjustments at home and in the classroom. If bullying is a cause, for example, the bullying situation would be addressed. A school staff member might also make a point of meeting the child at the door and escorting him or her to class, and providing support for the child throughout the school day so that the child feels like a friendly adult is always available.
Changes at home can include supportive language from parents, along with support like assistance with homework. If a child feels inadequate, parents may encourage the child to explore an area of interest and achieve proficiency so that he or she can feel good about something. Parents might also talk to their children about their own fears of school and how they got over them, and their own enjoyment of school and school-like activities. Reading to children and engaging in structured activities at home can also help dispel a school phobia.