ASK THE EXPERTS

Help! My Child Dislikes School

By Dr. Susan Goldman, Family Psychologist

Question:

We have a kindergartner who does not want to go to school. She did not want to go from day one, and it is not getting any better. She does not like to sit still for very long, and she doesn't like to color or read. What can we do to help motivate her?

Answer:

By the time they have started kindergarten; many children are "old hands" at separating from their caretakers and spending several hours in school, especially if they attended preschool. But your daughter may still be struggling with spending time away from home. Perhaps she did not attend preschool or attended preschool for fewer hours than kindergarten requires.

If she successfully navigated the separation in preschool, think about what is different in this situation. Your daughter may be distressed by a longer day, more students in the class, or the loss of a favorite teacher or group of friends. It may be helpful to discuss these thoughts with her teacher and come up with a strategy to help make the transition to kindergarten easier. This may include a brief period of shorter school days as well as rewards of a favorite activity for school attendance and participation.

Your daughter may also be reacting to the transition from preschool to kindergarten as the demands on attention and visual motor skills increase. It may be helpful to speak with the teacher or spend some time observing your daughter in class (if this is not too disruptive) to get an idea if she is struggling with these demands. During the past few years, school systems have stepped up the pressure on the kindergarten year in terms of reading readiness and other skills. You may be able to practice these new skills at home to help her feel more comfortable in class.

Susan Goldman is a New York City and Westchester, NY-based child and family psychologist in private practice. She is also on staff at Social Bridges, a social skills program for children and adolescents located in Florida and New York.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.