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students that could be tried with your child. For example, your child could have a special role in the morning helping the teacher.

Explain to the child that “that sick feeling in your tummy” is called anxiety, everyone gets it, and you are going to help him or her feel better about going to school. Create a stance where you are accepting of your child’s anxiety about going to school, but still setting clear expectations about them going every day. Try not to judge/criticise your child for feeling anxious, as this can add a further layer of distress because the child is ashamed that they have disappointed you, and this second layer can make the problem worse. Talk to your child about times when you felt anxious about something in your life, and what you did to make the situation better. Make home as boring as possible when your child is at home on a school day, because it can be a significant reward to stay home and get special attention from a parent or watch TV etc.

You should expect your child to work on school material and you may need to be strict about limiting access to technology and other leisure activities. Keep a balanced sleep wake cycle so that your child is not trying to start a challenging day at school when they have been up late due to free time/ technology habits. Sometimes it helps to have someone else drop your child at school such as the other parent, a family member, or a peer’s parent (which would involve a fun playdate before school).

Collaborating with your child’s school It is best to be open and honest with your child’s teacher and possibly the well-being staff member. School refusal is unlikely to be adequately addressed if home and school are not aligned together in a plan to deal with the anxiety. School refusal is common, and it is likely that school staff will have tricks up their sleeve that have worked with other

Part-time attendance should be prioritised over full-time attendance. Sometimes it is unrealistic to expect that a child will go from a pattern of missing days to being there all the time. It is best to start with the goal of getting there each day, even if that means leaving early. Once your child is back in a pattern of regular attendance, you can graduate them up to longer periods of time.

and still feel like things are not improving, talk to your GP who can help you consult with a psychologist under a Mental Health Care Plan for your child.

Keep the focus on increasing attendance rather than grades and be prepared to make concessions. For example, don’t have to catch up test missed, provide structure for free time if there is social anxiety. Use the ladder analogy. This means that if your child is not attending any school they are at the bottom of the ladder, and climbing to the top of the ladder means they are attending full time. You can ask them what is the next rung that they want to climb (e.g. it may be just going for lunch times or art class to begin with, just to get them into the routine of attending regularly). Provide positive praise and tangible rewards for each rung on your ladder that your child climbs up. Fighting against anxiety is hard work, and if you reward your child for this work then they are more likely to keep trying rather than the easier option of giving up. Lastly, if you have tried the above

Further reading: Kidsmatter fact sheet and video https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/ mental-health-matters/schoolrefusal Raising Children Network http:// raisingchildren.net.au/articles/ school_refusal.html

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AUTUMN 2017 5

Casey Cardinia Kids Autumn 2017