Concerned about my child's behaviour in school
It can be very worrying seeing your child unhappy or struggling at school.
You may have noticed a change in their behaviour, such as your child being disruptive in school or they may seem withdrawn from their surroundings and isolating themselves.
The following are some of the concerns you may have, and advice on how you can deal with them.
- My child seems unhappy at school
- My child is refusing to go to school
- My child has high levels of anxiety
- My child's behaviour at school can be challenging to manage
- I think my child may be being bullied
If your child does not enjoy going to school or comes home anxious, sad or withdrawn, it is important that you talk with them to find out why. It is best to do this when they have been home from school for a while and feel more relaxed.
Some children will talk freely, and you will be able to identify the problems quickly. However, others may need more time to feel they can share what is bothering them.
If your child does not want to talk to you about what is worrying them, try asking them whilst doing an activity together. They may feel more able to talk if they feel relaxed.
You could also try talking about their day, asking what their favourite time of the day is and what they don’t like. This may help to find out where the problem lies.
Reading books that encourage them to share their worries can also help.
Once you have found out what is troubling them, arrange to meet with their teacher. Take a list of things with you to discuss and take thorough notes, including what actions are agreed.
If your child will not share their concerns with you, try talking to their teacher and ask them to observe them in the classroom and playground. You could also talk to parents of your child’s friends.
A child who is extremely unhappy at school may refuse to go, and it is important to remember that they may feel they are simply unable to.
Emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA) is difficult to cope with. Parents and education staff need to work together to find out why a child doesn’t want to go to school and what is going to help.
It could be that your child is being bullied, or they are finding the work difficult and struggling to keep up with other children.
You can try to explore what your child thinks about school. Is there a pattern to the days they are refusing to go? Are they trying to avoid a particular activity, person or situation?
Arrange to meet with a member of school staff who knows your child well and ask for their help. It may be that your child is showing signs of anxiety in school at certain times. There may be changes in their behaviour, at school and at home.
Emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA) can be a sign that your child needs more support, interventions or reasonable adjustments made by the school and at home. If you think that your child may have a special educational need or disability, arrange to meet with the school Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) to discuss your concerns.
If EBSA relates to anxiety, you can find further information and advice in the council’s factsheet absence from school and anxiety.
If EBSA relates to a medical need, you can find further information and advice on supporting a child with medical needs in school.
Nearly one in five young people experience high levels of anxiety.
There can be many things that trigger anxiety such as:
school transitions from one school to another
school demands and pressures
peers or friendships groups
worrying about, or caring for a loved one
bullying or fear of being bullied
If your child is having difficulties sleeping there are Sleep Toolkits that may help:
Your child’s school may observe behaviour that is challenging. Behaviour is used as a form of communication so ask the school to keep a record of including
what happens before the behaviour takes place
what happens while they are displaying the behaviour
what are the consequences
This may be recorded on an ABC (antecedent, behaviour, consequence) chart.
It is important that school staff share information on your child’s behaviour with you, such as what the triggers are and what normally helps calm them. Make sure you also share any strategies you use with the school.
Children can often show behaviours that challenge when they are struggling with an element of school life. For example, your child may be:
finding the work difficult
finding the school environment difficult
struggling to fit in and make friends
Have regular contact with their teacher to discuss their behaviour in school, and if this has affected their behaviour at home. Ask the school to encourage and reward positive behaviour, rather than focus on the negatives. It is important that you let the school deal with any discipline.
The school may be able to set up a behaviour support plan where they can monitor your child’s progress.
If the advice from other professionals is required, an early help assessment should be completed. Your education setting will usually request this.
Some children will have a special educational need or disability (SEND) that impacts on their behaviour in school. If your child has a SEND, you may find it helpful to read our SEND Local Offer.
In certain instances, you may find that your child has been excluded from school by the Head Teacher. For further information read our article on school exclusions.
By searching our online directory you may find other groups or information that may help you.
Children who are being bullied may:
come home with dirty or damaged clothes and lost or damaged belongings
have unexplained bruises or scratches
seem to have money missing or ask for money
arrive at school or get home late because they have changed their route to or from school
be afraid or refuse to go to school
be unhappy, depressed or unwell
have lost confidence or appear nervous or distressed
have problems with eating or sleeping
If you think your child is being bullied, you should talk to them to find out more. Make sure they know that it is not their fault and that they are not alone. Keep a diary of bullying events, recording what happened, when and where it happened and who was involved.
Once you have the information you need you should arrange to meet with your child’s teacher. Before the meeting ask to see a copy of the school's anti-bullying policy to see what should be in place.
At the meeting you should:
be specific and write down what the teacher said, including any actions they agreed
try to remain as calm as possible so that school can understand your concerns and you maintain a good relationship
ask school if there are any practical things you can do to help
Follow up the meeting with a letter detailing what was discussed; this ensures everyone has a clear understanding of the situation and future actions.
Be available for your child to talk to you about their worries and ensure they know where to go to for support. This could be yourself or a teacher they trust. Your child may wish to contact Childline. either by telephone or to chat online about their worries.