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What to Do When Your Kid Hates School

Photograph by Getty Images

Ugh. My kid doesn't want to get on the bus. I can't tell if it's a case of Monday morning blues, or if he really hates school. Either way, he makes a convincing case. "Mommy," he says, "Can't we just take a break from school? I don't really like it."

I want to tell him that he's not really supposed to like school. School is work, and work is not as fun as hanging at home playing Minecraft. But the truth is my kid is in elementary school, and elementary school is supposed to be fun. I loved school. I looked forward to going. I want my kid to love it, too.

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I send my kid on the bus, and he seems fine. I get no calls from school or cryptic emails that cause me to believe he's miserable at school. But it occurs to me that I don't really know the difference between Monday morning blues and real school blues. Nor would I know what to do if my kid did hate school. If a kid hates green beans, he never has to eat them again. But if a kid hates school, he's still got to go back.

I consulted Shelanee Fernando, an elementary school counselor with the Beverly Hills Unified School District. "Usually," she says, "there are three reasons young kids aren't happy in school: 1. The workload is too hard; 2. There's something going on at home; 3. There's something going on with a friend or group of friends."

Some signs that your child is really unhappy to the point of needing intervention include crying at school, not wanting to get out of the car to go to school, and not enjoying activities he or she previously enjoyed.

Fernando stresses that the No. 1 way a child's relationship with school can change for the better is if the parents are supportive of the school, and are willing to work on any problems at home that might be affecting a child's ability to focus or socialize at school.

OK, you see the signs. It's clear your kid isn't happy at school. Now what?

Make dinner a time where everyone gets to talk about what's going well and what isn't.

1. Talk to your child. Try to find out what's going on. Let him know you're there for him and will do anything to help.

2. Talk to the teachers. A teacher's insight is invaluable.

3. Find out if your child's school has a school counselor. If so, ask that they observe your child to see what's going on.

4. If your child is having emotional problems, get him extra help and support outside of school. Let him know he has safety in mom and dad, the school counselor, and an outside therapist or psychologist, if needed.

5. If your child isn't into sports and is having problems because the other kids are, ask your school to provide other activities for recess that keep kids social, but keep the non-athletes from feeling left out.

6. If school is too hard for your child, get her extra support she needs. That might mean hiring a tutor after school to give your child that one-on-one attention she may need.

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7. If your child is having problems with a friend or group of friends, make sure your child isn't adding to the problem by being a victim. Teach your child to be comfortable speaking up for himself. Ask that the school integrate a solution to the peer problem into the curriculum with a solving circle or discussion about kindness.

8. Be open about your own highs and lows. Make dinner a time where everyone gets to talk about what's going well and what isn't. It's a great chance for your kids to hear that you, too, have struggles at work or with friends. And it also helps them identify things that are going well.

Does your child hate school?

photo via Getty Images

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