4 min Read
My 10-Year-Old Says He Doesn’t Want To Go Back To School
August 2, 2022
4 min Read
August 2, 2022
Psychologist and parenting expert, Sara Dimerman, answers your questions.
We have had a great time with the kids this summer – family vacations, sleeping in late, having fun. Midway through the summer, my 10-year-old began saying that he doesn’t want to go back to school. Last year was just the same. He wouldn’t even go back-to-school shopping. He says we can’t make him. Is this normal?
Your opening sentence is the best explanation for your son’s behavior – vacations, sleeping in, having fun. Who wants to give this up to return to early morning risings and very little time for unstructured play? The transition from free time in the sunshine to the confines of a school is not eagerly anticipated by most. And sometimes anticipation can be worse than the actual thing you’re anticipating! Being resistant to shopping for back-toschool supplies is your son’s way of denying that school is just around the corner. And telling you that you can’t make him go shopping is his way of asserting control – even though he knows that he will have to go to school on the first day.
My advice is to acknowledge and validate his feelings, resist pressuring him to prepare and don’t panic that you won’t have everything organized in time. There’s an increased likelihood that he will come around sooner, rather than later, if you handle with caution.
To validate his feelings, say something like “I know it’s hard to think about going back to school after so many weeks of not having to study, waking up late and having so much free time. Lots of kids (and teachers!) feel this way.” Keep in mind that the goal is not to solve the problem. It is to make him feel heard and supported. Then, don’t focus on school unless you have to.
About two weeks before school begins, if he still seems resistant to preparing – physically and psychologically – you may need to intervene gently. My daughter prepares by putting sticky notes on her wall. Each note has a number on it, so if there are two weeks before school begins, she posts notes numbered 1 to 14. At the beginning of each new day, the sticky note from the day before is thrown away. This way, your son has a visual reminder of the number of days left. This may help him prepare for the first day of school, even if he’s feeling anxious about it.
Ideally, a child at age 10 will help organize his or her own supplies – either from recycling old stuff or figuring out what needs to be purchased – before the first day of school. If your child refuses to be involved, then you can say something like “I understand that you don’t want to deal with anything school-related and that’s your choice, but if you don’t get your supplies organized, then you will go back to school without them.” Set a date by which you are willing to help him find or purchase these supplies so that you are not running around the day before (unless you don’t mind doing so).
The bottom line: Validate your child’s feelings while guiding him in the transition from summer holidays to back to school. Be patient but remind him of the consequences if he does not prepare for his first day back and then allow him to experience these.
Sara Dimerman is a Psychologist, author and parenting expert in the Greater Toronto Area. Read more at helpmesara.com.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2013.