What to Say to a Child Who is Reluctant to Go Back to School


Guest post by Cindi Reynolds

Do you know a child who is reluctant to go back to school after a break?

As an elementary school counselor, I’ve found that transition times are hardest for school-aged kids. For example, Monday mornings, the day after a school break, or the beginning of a new school year are typical times when a child is reluctant to go back to school.

The main thing I tell parents is this: it’s up to you to model a positive attitude about school, working hard, and overcoming challenges. This builds up your student’s confidence and life skills.

[ Related: Back-to-School Jitters? Coping Tips from a School Counselor ]

Here are some of helpful phrases you can use with a child who is hesitant about making a transition back into his or her school day:

Find out more by asking . . .

“Is there something specific you are worried about?”

“What are you looking forward to about the school year?”

“Would you like to go to the store with me to pick up your school supplies?” (Or a similar task that will excite your child.)

Validate their feelings with phrases like:

“It’s hard to give up on the fun of summer for me too.”

“Once we get back into a routine things will be good.”

“Remember the time you didn’t want to do (blank) but you pushed through it and it turned out just fine?”

“It’s ok to feel (name emotion). It won’t last forever.”

Provide encouragement by saying:

“I know you are a hard worker; working hard makes you feel good.” (Give an example in your own life when you accomplished something and how good it felt.)

“It’s fun to learn new things and make new friends!”

“You’ve got this.”

“I believe in you.”

Download these tips in a printable PDF version.

Here’s another way you can help:  if your child is very anxious about going to school, please let her teacher or school counselor know. We can keep an eye on your student and follow up with you if needed. When parents and educators to work together to help children build perseverance, resilience, problem solving skills, and the positive attitude necessary to help them have a great school experience we are helping them build skills to last them a lifetime.

And here’s a secret your little ones never tell you: in most cases, once they get back into the building, they’re fine. So help them get over their initial reluctance and it’ll be smooth sailing for the rest of the day.

About the author: Cindi Reynolds is currently an elementary school counselor working with children grades K- 6 in Grand Rapids, MI. She is an experienced elementary teacher having taught in San Antonio, TX, Lake Forest, IL, Plano, TX, Las Vegas, NV and Grand Rapids, MI.   She and her husband have one teenage daughter. Cindi loves helping children learn to be strong, kind, and respectful people.



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