By: Laura Petix, MS OTR/LEPISODE 46


School refusal? Here’s what a therapist would do.

Do you have a child who refuses going to school and you either can’t figure out why or can’t figure out how to best help them? In this episode, Natasha Daniels educates us on what to do (what not to do) and general strategies for responding to school refusal. She also talks about some common school accommodations you can ask for to help your child have a more successful day.

Natasha Daniels has been an anxiety & OCD therapist for over two decades. She has become the go-to global expert for parents raising kids with anxiety and OCD. She combines both her clinical expertise with her lived experience of raising her own three kids with anxiety and OCD.

She is the creator of the popular website AT Parenting Survival, As well as the host to the top rated show AT Parenting Survival Podcast and the Youtube channel, Anxiety & OCD Support. She also gives in-depth support to thousands of parents raising kids with anxiety or OCD in her online membership AT Parenting Community.
Natasha is also the author of Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide , How to Parent Your Anxious Toddler, Social Skills Activities for Kids and It’s Brave to Be Kind.

Want to start an open dialogue with your child’s teacher? Click here for my free email template!

Struggling with school refusal? Here's what a therapist would do.
10:38:56 Hello, Natasha, hey? it's so good to have you here. We've talked a few times in the past on Instagram, and we've talked about our different ways that we help kids through in Dms. 10:39:19 We're always talking and i've learned so much from you i'm so excited to be able to have this...

10:38:56 Hello, Natasha, hey? it’s so good to have you here. We’ve talked a few times in the past on Instagram, and we’ve talked about our different ways that we help kids through in Dms. 10:39:19 We’re always talking and i’ve learned so much from you i’m so excited to be able to have this conversation with you, today, and to share all of your knowledge with everybody here. 10:39:29 I always recommend your stuff because you are the perfect blend of the Anxiety and the Spd piece, like as a mom who gets it yourself and a practitioner. 10:39:39 So i’m so happy to have you here today. yeah I appreciate you having me on so today. 10:39:45 We are talking about school refusal, and I actually didn’t know there was an actual term for this until like recently, I think, in like forums or parent chats, or something where I didn’t know there was a term for it and 10:40:02 it was before my daughter was actually school age. and now that my daughter’s in kindergarten. 10:40:08 We are not dealing with it, but I can start to see little hints of how it can trend in that direction, and hearing more and more parents struggle with real intense and severe school refusal from what i’m hearing and 10:40:22 seeing in communities. It sounds like a really difficult situation to navigate, and I’ve seen you speak about this in your Facebook. group. 10:40:35 I think I saw that, and maybe a certain post so you’re the perfect person to ask questions about this I would love If you could first start out by telling us if there is a general either clinical definition, or some some definition. 10:40:49 To help parents understand the context of what school refusal entails and what that could look like here. 10:40:56 And I think school reviews is a pretty generic term and so it can mean a lot of things for different people and different struggles. 10:41:04 The basic concept is just that your child is having some sort of stress or anxiety response about going to school. 10:41:10 That goes above and beyond the developmentally appropriate stress. and anxiety that kids can have. And what causes that is different, depending on what’s going on with your child? Okay, great. 10:41:22 So you brought up in a really important point, that there is a developmental aspect of some kids not wanting to go to school or having anxiety about it. 10:41:31 And I would assume this is for kids who are preschool or first going to school for the first time. 10:41:36 Is that right? Yeah, I mean you’re it’s normal to feel anxious when you’re going to preschool or kindergarten. 10:41:43 Even, I would say first, second, grade you know you’re still getting into the rhythm of things, and so that anticipatory anxiety is there which is not muchly appropriate, and it’s also as a 10:41:54 total separate side note normal for a child to feel anxious about going to school. 10:41:59 If they’re, having some sort of legitimate situation they’re having bullying, or they’re having an issue with the teacher or some social problems. 10:42:07 And when i’m talking about school refusal in this realm, i’m not talking about any of those things. 10:42:14 Okay got it so so that’s sort of that’s what I feel like I’ve had experience with my daughter when there’s something very specific that she can call out about school that she’s worried about that day and doesn’t want 10:42:25 to go to school for that day, so It’s like she hated in preschool on Wednesdays was pack up day where she had to pack her blanket into the bag, and she hated the struggle She had with 10:42:33 the motor component so she’s like I don’t want to go to school today. 10:42:37 Every Wednesday, and I was like is this school refusal or when she was worrying about lunch, and someone saying something about what she eat. so very particular piece. 10:42:47 So what you’re saying is part of that is all considered more normal in the realm of kids, either avoiding school or not really wanting to go to school. 10:42:56 Yeah, now, you might start to see a pattern especially when your kids are younger, I mean, and your daughter seems first of all I can’t believe she’s in kindergarten like a toddler day. 10:43:07 Yesterday, you know, as They’re getting ready to go to school and they’re starting to go to school, or even if they’ve been in school for a while. 10:43:14 You might start to see if a pattern of the same kind of complaints. 10:43:20 Your daughter is very communicative and so I love that she’s able to tell you exactly what it is that’s making her not wanna go on Wednesdays or that you’re able to pick up the pattern and then explore 10:43:30 what’s going on on wednesdays that’s the head of the game, because a lot of times as parents all we know is our kids are being really difficult, and they don’t want to go to school and it might be different 10:43:39 reasons at different times, and so you want to look at the pattern So if it’s always i’m worried that kids are gonna like, Look at me weird, depending on what i’m bringing to lunch. 10:43:50 And then it’s like well it’s art class and she hangs them up, and I don’t want my art to be hung up, or it’s in math. 10:43:55 They always ask me questions, and I don’t want to be the focus of attention. 10:43:58 I’m starting to string things together. and i’m seeing a lot of social anxiety possibly being a theme. 10:44:05 So we want to look at that as well. Yeah, those are all great points, and I i’m thinking to lot of parents who follow me and follow the my parenting style. 10:44:17 My parenting approach. Jen tends to be more of the authoritative parenting approach, which is, you know, welcoming all feelings while still setting boundaries. 10:44:26 And that goes for everything like when we’re talking about sensory sensitivity, which was what I mostly talk about that comes into play a lot with rooming tasks and wearing clothes and trying food and it’s it’s 10:44:38 acknowledging that wiring in their brain that makes those things more scary and hard and sensitive to their nervous system, and also saying, we have to wear clothes outside it’s not acceptable to not work. 10:44:49 Clothes, or we have to take a bath I know it’s hard, so a lot of molding those things together. 10:44:55 So I would assume for more. of the extreme cases of school refusal when it’s like daily, and there’s no specific reason, and they’re physically not, you know, getting out of bed and maybe you have an older child and you have 10:45:06 to physically drag them and all of those things. I can see how that gets really confusing and tricky as a parent on how to respond of like validating their feeling, and also having to like force them to go to school, and is that 10:45:21 something we should even be doing or do we work on it from like an accommodative approach working with the school like What’s your typical approach to that? 10:45:31 A lot to say about that. Yeah, that up noise I think There’s a spd. 10:45:41 You can have kids or having a hard time going to school and it’s not even school-related. 10:45:45 It’s the process of getting to school and so the first step is really looking at what’s the trigger source? 10:45:53 Because a lot of times, I think, as parents, we move into the problem solving aspect of it. 10:45:57 No! do I force my child to go to school? Do I talk to this little administration or the teacher? 10:46:04 And even before you do any of that you want to pause and play detective and say, what is going on, you know it can look like difficult behavior, but a lot of times difficult behavior conceals what’s going on and for your audience it will be more likely me sensory processing disorder and anxiety and OCD you like to hang out together So it 10:46:34 could be other things. but I do want to address the sensory aspect. 10:46:37 It could be just the idea of. I have to get up at a certain time. 10:46:41 I have to brush my hair. I have to put these difficult shoes on. 10:46:44 I don’t know, what will fit me well they don’t have it on the weekend, and there’s this time crunch on top of it, and so it may not even be about school. 10:46:53 It might be about the idea of preparing for school. I know I struggled with my oldest Daughter, who has spd what was a Nightmare, but predominantly, because it had too many sensory triggers before she even got 10:47:05 to school and then, for even going to school it might be it’s chaotic. 10:47:12 It’s noisy it guy next to me smells it could be a lot of sensory things as well, yeah. 10:47:19 So when all of that stuff overlaps, I think that is a lot a lot of it with us at least in my house. 10:47:24 The one time I actually went witnessed. I had to like peel her off of the car floor, because she like got out of the cursey, and then, like hit in the corner of the car. 10:47:32 And I was that was the first time I was met with this and I was like, Don’t threaten, don’t threaten, because, like the first things in my head was like if you don’t get out of the car you know like the 10:47:41 principal is gonna see you or that like all of these scare tactics are the first things that come to my mind, and I don’t know where that comes from. 10:47:47 If that’s just my first response. but anyway, anyway, I didn’t know how to respond. 10:47:52 And so, after thinking of that and talking to her later, I knew also it was not about school. 10:47:58 It was getting her to school, or a sensory thing But even with that like, what do you still do? 10:48:03 If you find out it’s things that are beyond your control in that moment, right like Spd is like a lifelong thing, and things work constantly trying to accommodate and shift our schedule. 10:48:14 But in those moments like what is the best thing to say or a few things to say to yet that child to get them to to get out of the car. 10:48:25 Well, when you’re in the moment it’s almost like you’re already off the cliff, and so a lot of times, we take a step back and talk about how to be proactive and i’ll get to the in the moment 10:48:36 but really in the moment it’s just like a meltdown right in the moment it’s just it’s like you know people will say what can I do to stop the meltdown you’re like you’re in the 10:48:43 meltdown just buckle up it’s been taken at that point. 10:48:47 I think, with school refusal it’s more about talking to your child separate from when you’re in that moment where they’re in fight flight, freeze We’re not really yet far ms bad what’s the hardest 10:48:59 part about school, you know. I noticed that, you know. So instead of moving into discipline, like you know, which I think we all do, I mean my I have had major school repusal with my 10 year old when she was in 10:49:11 kindergarten for second grade. We had a 504 plan for it. 10:49:14 It was a major issue, and it wasn’t there in kindergarten. 10:49:17 I was waiting for it in kindergarten it didn’t pop up until first second grade. 10:49:21 Not to scare you. But no, we were unlocked. 10:49:25 Just kidding We work through it she’s doing great she’s in fifth grade. 10:49:28 Now she’s no school refusal but you know It is a normal human reaction to just be like you’re gonna get in trouble, or the teacher’s gonna you know. that’s a human response. 10:49:39 We want to have self-compassion but I would say to her, what’s the hardest part about going to school, you know, and sometimes we’ll give you throw away answers. 10:49:45 They’ll say it’s stupid or it’s boring, or I don’t want to. 10:49:48 I just want to be home, and as parents we want to keep going down that rabbit hole and say I get it. 10:49:54 Yeah school stupid like, don’t fight with that just agree with it. 10:49:57 But if there was one thing you can change about school, what would it be so? 10:50:00 This magic wand question really helps, because then they start to give you specifics. 10:50:04 Well, if I like that you’ve been, sneakers on you know that would help, or I would say to my daughter, because it was hard to figure out what the core fear was, and I said to her, if I could wipe a magic wand 10:50:16 and get rid of any part of your day or person, what would it be? 10:50:21 And she said, Get rid of pe get rid of lunch and I said, And so that gave me something. 10:50:28 What’s going on at pe in lunch and i’m able to say? Well, what’s going on what’s the worst part I keep going down with the same kind of language what’s the worst part about lunch it’s 10:50:36 noisy people are watching me eat but if I grow up what’s the worst part about pe it’s noisy people are watching me. 10:50:44 What if I throw up? and there was a common theme? 10:50:47 So then I was able to say not Ok. let’s homeschool you, because for anxiety and oCD and Spd, if we’re home schooling because they’re not able to tolerate the environment only not because it’s 10:51:03 a philosophical choice which is totally fine from my daughter when when I start to cocoon them and say, Ok, you don’t have to go to school, which didn’t happen in the summer. 10:51:16 It was like I can’t go to restaurants I can’t go to camp. 10:51:20 I can’t go on this trip with us it wasn’t school specific. 10:51:24 It was in the environment that wasn’t environment. that she would have to be in in many different sort of ways. and so I try to respect parents, and whatever their decision is, I’m, not really one to get on my soapbox and be 10:51:36 like, know this or yes to that. I think, if you know your child. 10:51:39 But I knew for my kids and for a lot of the kids I work with, you know, globally, and in my practice the issue isn’t school when i’m talking about spd anxiety or oCD it is it is 10:51:51 just environments that I want to build the resilience around. Yeah, I think that’s so important. 10:51:57 I love that that magic wand question i’m definitely going to Remember that because I’ve never sometimes I don’t know how to ask the right question, and I think that’s a really cool way to ask it even if they might 10:52:08 not know how to answer it. I think it’s just like a different another tool in our toolbox to ask. 10:52:15 I want to go back because this was a question I had at the end. 10:52:17 But since you talked about it now, I think it’s really cool for parents to hear you mentioned that you had the school refusal challenge built into your 504 plan. 10:52:27 Can you explain for people who might not know what a 504 plan is, and then what the language look like, or what specific accommodation for score refusal? 10:52:35 What that looked like in your daughter’s 504 plan yeah. 10:52:41 So once you know what the core fear is you know or or where fears are. See if you don’t know that aspect. you’re not going to really be able to go to the school, and ask for accommodations because the school might look 10:52:52 at you and say, What do you want me to accommodate really will depend on you as a parent in a perfect world. 10:52:57 Really, I think a lot of times we we expect too much from our schools. 10:53:01 We expect that they’re going to know our kids better than we do, and they’re going to craft a 5 o 4 plan that is perfect for our kids. 10:53:10 And what if I have found in my practice and in my own case? is, I know my kids the best, and I know what they need the best. 10:53:17 And i’m. able to find out a lot better than them because they’re not equipped to do that Once I knew what her struggle was. 10:53:26 I knew it was I knew it was I know it was the cafeteria built in some accommodate i’m using here as an example. just because I think concrete examples are really helpful absolutely Yeah, so I was able to go 10:53:39 to school, and a lot of times in school districts. This is for America. 10:53:44 If you have people globally it’s different different countries and I don’t know how that works, but you can get a 5 o 4 plan, which is like an iap, but it’s a small smaller version i’m not an 10:53:55 educational specialist. So for those of you that are like bear with me. you’re like, Oh, my gosh that’s not how I would describe it, but it’s and not as a medical if you’ve not otherwise specified it’s kind of like the 10:54:07 5 o 4, caveat it’s not services provided which is what Iap does right, and then 504 plan like you said, like, if you don’t qualify for an ip, typically you can still qualify for a final 4 10:54:19 plan. Yeah, 5 o 4 is yeah, easier to get all those. 10:54:22 Sometimes you still have to be a mama bear and really fight for one. 10:54:25 I did it in my Child’s school they were they were actually asking me to create one. 10:54:29 They were really helpful. And so that was just lucky, but I was able to say, these are her issues, and these are the things that will help her. 10:54:38 And I wrote it all out, and so I was able to say so. 10:54:43 We had full school refusal and so when you’re talking about school refusal. i’ll just back up for a second main goals just to get them in the doors because a lot of times in my world accommodations like a 10:54:57 four-letter word it’s like it’s bad because with oCD we’re not talking about accommodating it grows the OCD. 10:55:02 And that’s what I talk about in my world but for Spd. 10:55:07 And for school refusal. but the main goal is to get them through that front door at whatever cost you can, which will be built in accommodation. 10:55:14 And then depending on what the accommodation is we want to always reassess that, and pull back that we started with. 10:55:22 He doesn’t have to go to the cafeteria, no, that was, that was a big accommodation. she would eat. 10:55:28 She was herself, because she’s a quite the advocate and very smart. 10:55:33 So she would just go to the nurse whenever lunch came you won’t quote. 10:55:39 Feel Well, you know that wasn’t really healthy so once we got it in her 5 o 4 plan he was able to go and eat in another teacher’s classroom. 10:55:48 That she actually had a good relationship with and felt comfortable though she was still being able to eat in front of other people and have some noise, because we don’t want to. 10:55:59 You don’t want to develop accommodations that that are not realistic, and that cocoon them from being able to function eventually. 10:56:08 You know I bought her you know airplanes. 10:56:14 Yeah, vibes I like vibes like they can listen through it. 10:56:16 And there’s other Now there’s other companies that do it as well. 10:56:19 But eventually she would have vibe, so that if she was in the cafeteria he could have those in. 10:56:23 I mean we worked towards her going back to the cafeteria, but some other things just quickly that aren’t heard 504, just as an example that are currently in there fast forward. 10:56:35 3 years. She is allowed to have a snack whenever she wants, because oh, she gets moody, and she can eat a lot, or she used not be able to eat a lot at lunch. 10:56:45 He was worried about growing up, and so now she can eat whenever she wants, because he had that fear he’s allowed to pitch it. 10:56:52 And so we have fidgets in her I in her 5 o 4 plan, and so whipped out like some putty or something. 10:56:59 Teachers can’t take that away or call her on that she has like a direct pass to go to the nurse, or to the counselor. 10:57:07 She needs feeling overwhelmed. you can remove herself from testing. 10:57:11 She hasn’t used this but if the noises too much she’s able to be tested independently from the class, and with no time that’s so helpful for you to list all of that out and I want all the 10:57:24 parents to hear this and think that be well, let me back up to, because sometimes I hear parents when we talk about accommodations, and they worry that their kid will just like, lean into it too much, or over abuse it and I find 10:57:38 the opposite. I don’t know if you want to speak from personal experience that it’s It’s like I don’t know what that is reverse psychology, like as soon as you say you don’t have to do something all of a 10:57:47 sudden they either want to, or they just feel more comfortable and it’s almost like a safety net of to them just feeling like more relaxed like my team is supporting me. 10:57:57 And I now feel comfortable in this space and now when i’m comfortable. 10:57:59 I can challenge myself, or like, Hey, look! I did something without it being a requirement. 10:58:04 Is that the experience that you have, either with your clients or with your daughter? 10:58:08 That she doesn’t like abuse. Those things and she just uses it when she needs it. 10:58:12 Yeah, that’s been my experience book personally and professionally is that kids really don’t want to stick out and they just the the knowing that the knowing that that’s available he creates the anxiety and stress in and of 10:58:25 itself, and you never really uses any of her stuff anymore. 10:58:29 We have so much in her ip and she really doesn’t mean in her 504 plan, and she doesn’t use it. 10:58:33 But I think, knowing that it’s there reduces that anxiety for most kids think that’s so important for parents to hear. 10:58:41 So I want to ask them, because my so that makes sense that when you find out what the reason is behind the school refusal, then you accommodate those parts in their day. 10:58:54 Do you ever get to a point? Is there like an accommodation? 10:59:00 For, like some schools like you only get like 10 tardies, and then you get blank mark on your record. 10:59:05 Is there an accommodation or something you work out with the admin say, like, while we’re working out these accommodations in her day, to decrease her score refusal? 10:59:12 We need more leniency on her. tardiness or being okay with her showing up to school an hour late like I’m gonna try my best to get her to school. 10:59:22 But I don’t want to put this like extra shame or marks of tardy. 10:59:27 Is there some kind of conversation you have there with admin about that? Yeah, and I don’t know the school policy in different places. 10:59:32 But I do know that having these formal 5 o fours or an iep gives you a lot more protection from parties and apps and tea absences. 10:59:43 And so it is a good legal thing have in place too we didn’t have to do that. 10:59:47 But it is i’ve seen other kids in my practice where they they were exempt from having those excessive apps due to piety. 10:59:57 Yeah, That’s what that’s where I was leaning towards the first time we had a full meltdown that lasted so long. 11:00:02 She was late to school, thought that I would have to I was like, Okay, this is gonna I’m gonna bookmark this in case I need to return to this and say like we need some sort of leniency. 11:00:13 But it never happened again. I think her for her also the she was embarrassed because I didn’t know this when she was late. 11:00:23 I couldn’t just walk her to her classroom I had to take her to the front office, and then someone had to walk her into the classroom, which was already in the first 2 weeks of school was like way Too anxiety 11:00:33 provoking for her that I think it scared her like. 11:00:36 It was a natural consequence, although, like I feel bad about that but now she’s now. she like will try to tame her her own reaction, because she doesn’t want to be late to school, because of that. 11:00:50 So that was a piece to it, too. So can we return then to for some of the parents who, we’re going to spend most of our time proactively and like after the fact, trying to be a detective and uncover what’s happening at 11:01:03 a accommodate those pieces for our kids when we’re in the moment, and they’re saying I hate school. 11:01:08 I don’t want to go to school why do I have to go in a meltdown when there’s less of that like verbalization. 11:01:17 I also tend to just be quiet, right? Just let her cry it out. 11:01:20 Let her scream sometimes. they’ll say I know or i’m here you’re safe, very limited, it changes each time, but when they’re actively saying those things like what do you as the parent like, physically do with your 11:01:32 body, and if there is anything to say what do you say because i’ve found myself just paralyzed like what’s the right thing to say like I know you hate school. 11:01:42 It’s such a weird it’s a scary thing because it definitely triggers most of our own anxieties because we’re going to be late to Maybe work. 11:01:49 Or what does this mean? for, like ongoing school 11:01:56 There’s not I think it’s important to know that you don’t have full control or full power to change that situation in that moment. 11:02:03 But it’s like not adding to the stress and so with with my daughter. 11:02:09 Just use her continually as an example she would say I don’t want to go. 11:02:11 I’m not going. I don’t feel well, I feel sick, and instead of arguing with her, or trying to cheerlead her to school, which actually is just adding fuel to the fire, I would just say I know just like you I 11:02:21 would say I know i’m. so sorry i’m so sorry you feel that way, and I would get her shoes, and i’d put them next to her. 11:02:28 Then I would, you know, get her bag and put it next to her, and I would actually like sometimes when she was little, you know, kindergarten first. 11:02:35 Actually it was like first second was like the worst I would put her shoes on for her, as i’m empathizing with her. 11:02:40 I know it’s so hard it’s I get it so hard, and then I time kind of like a s quarter to the car. 11:02:45 Not she wasn’t being physically competitive and so I was able to do that a lot of times I would actually distract her as well, which, as an approach in general for anxiety, I don’t do. but I do it for in the 11:02:59 moment panic. And so we did utilize the ipad a lot. 11:03:06 And so the first thing she would do when she’d get up in the morning is i’d plop that ipad right in front of her, and kind of get her to focus on a show or something so that her mind 11:03:14 doesn’t start to snowball and a lot of things at night And so now, with my oldest daughter, who had spd the one that I’m talking about now, yeah, some sensory issues but we’re not a diagnosis my other 11:03:26 one Major Spd. diagnosis you would actually get dressed the night before I’d have her in her full outfit the night before. 11:03:34 All she had to do was get her shoes on. Even her socks were on. 11:03:39 Everything was made, and I did that with my youngest daughter too, that I’m talking about. Everything was done so there was no expectation for them except to show up. 11:03:47 Breathe a little bit of something, and maybe put their shoes on, or maybe I would do it for them if we were in like full-blown school refusal mode. 11:03:55 Those are all really good tips I Night so your daughter wasn’t, really physically combative. 11:04:01 My daughter what sometimes is, but would you say it’s ever appropriate to physically pick up your child to put them in the car if you have to like. 11:04:11 I think the parents, I think parents who are like myself, we hesitate like in a meltdown. 11:04:15 I will physically restrain her. if she’s being harmful to herself for me, because that keeps everyone safe I have to do the tight bear hug. sometimes, But when it’s like when we’re battling with like I want you 11:04:25 to have your own bodily. autonomy I want you to tell me like like you don’t want anyone else to force your body to do something yet. 11:04:33 I don’t need to get to in the car and those distracting methods. 11:04:37 Aren’t working is it more like is it more beneficial to sit with them the entire time it takes them to do that, even if it means that we’re going to be late. 11:04:49 Or do we just like not feed into it just I know I know, validate them while we’re carrying them, and like plopping them in the car seat while they’re crying and still validating as we’re moving 11:04:58 with their morning routine Yeah, i’m not a fan of physically moving our kids because I feel like that’s a Bandaid on a bullet hole, and it’s not it’s not going to help long term all 11:05:09 you’re doing is keeping the can down the road which might be like around the corner when you get to school. 11:05:14 Now they’re in 10 spite flight or free so now you have a combative out of control, child, and there’s no self-advocacy, even if we’re talking about a preschooler i’m much 11:05:25 rather offer incentives i’m very much more of like a you know. positive reinforcement kind of person because because I think handing a wiggly add a control child to the school he’s going to just make a really bad school day and Then it’s going to 11:05:45 perpetuate the problem long term so I would offer incentives, and I would offer incentives not to go to school, and I’ve done this with my kids for like even just going to birthday parties or going anywhere. 11:05:56 I just want them to do the next step, and so it it is helpful to have, you know, some sort of bravery point system set up. 11:06:05 And then with my daughter, I would say I know it’s so hard I know. 11:06:07 Just get your shoes on. You can get a point your shoes on. 11:06:10 I know it’s so hard let’s just get into car let’s just get into the car. 11:06:13 We’ll talk about it in the car it’s not a scary because they’re they’re only committing to the car. 11:06:19 They’re only committing to the shoes well let’s just get to the dry. 11:06:23 Let’s just drive through you don’t have to get out of the car. 11:06:25 Let’s just take it one step let’s just get to school if you’re not ready, we’ll talk about it. 11:06:28 Then you know, Don’t lie to them and say you don’t have to go, although that might be the end result. 11:06:34 But it is a slippery slope because once they don’t go. 11:06:37 No, that fear is now going to be even bigger. And so it is also setting up some things that will kind of stack the deck in your favor, having a go-to person in the pickup line, help the drop off line So if I have a 11:06:51 warm, fuzzy teacher that help with my daughter because she really liked her teacher. 11:06:56 And so I would hand her basically directly, to her teacher and I didn’t get out of the car. 11:07:02 And that was on purpose, too, because I got out of the car now we’re going to have more of a struggle. 11:07:05 The The pickup line is good for some kids because there is this innate pressure, you know, and a lot of our kids are sensitive inside and out, and so they don’t want people, you know, as they get older they become more 11:07:18 subconscious, And so the pickup line and the stress of people are behind us. 11:07:22 We need to like your teachers right there she’s waiting Oh, she’s opening the door. 11:07:27 You know. Once outdoors open my kids because they’re so subconscious, they’re a totally different kid. 11:07:32 There’s people waiting behind me right now that’s not for everybody. I’ve also worked with parents where they’ve had to where, like they’re kids either came early, or came late and they would go to the 11:07:44 office, and they had maybe a special, warm, fuzzy person. 11:07:49 There he is having that warm fuzzy substitute that really does help, too. 11:07:53 So, and that’s interesting that you say too, about that slippery slope like the one day they don’t go to school. 11:07:58 Then the next day, and I hear a lot and you mentioned this a little bit earlier, a lot about that psychosomatic experience where they’re so anxious. 11:08:08 Then they get really bad stomach aches and they will actually bomb it, and in 2,022. When you have any of those kinds of physical symptoms, we are now in this decision tree in our head. 11:08:22 I’m like what is this this is anxiety it’s not, I want to believe my child. 11:08:23 I don’t want to send her to school because she has the stomach, I think. 11:08:26 What if this turns into something? what is is there a sort of questions you ask yourself or your child to determine what’s beneath that? 11:08:36 If if it’s a headache from anxiety or if it’s a quote made up headache, or if it’s a stomach egg from thinking about it, like, how do you go how do you weigh those things 11:08:46 out. it’s hard and sometimes you might you might miscalculate and 11:08:52 But if there’s a pattern if they’re starting to feel sick, and they’re vocalizing. 11:08:56 I don’t want to go to school I don’t feel I feel sick. 11:09:00 You’re asking Maybe some other probing questions or they’ve had a history of school refusal, and stomach aches related to anxiety, and then it’s more of an indication but you can have a child and 11:09:11 i’ve done i’ve done both i’ve had i’ve had my kids say it’s not anxiety, and their stomach really hurts and i’ve sent them to school and they’ve come home and have 11:09:19 had a stomach virus, and I have had them stay home. 11:09:23 And as soon as the 8 o’clock, hour has passed they’re like bouncing and happy, and they’re fine And so sometimes you’re not going to be able to know a 100%. 11:09:35 This is also helpful to let the school know like. So I have kids who have someatic issues and that their stomach hurts a lot. 11:09:42 Both my kids, My younger kids have stomach issues through the anxiety, and I left a school now, and the school nurse knows me really well, and I’ve said you know if she comes into your this is just not what you asked But 11:09:53 It’s just another tangent you know because a lot of kids with score refusal will have stomach aches during school, or especially in the first part of the day. they’ll go to the nurse you 11:10:02 don’t have a relationship with the nurse the nurse can make it so much worse, or this full administration can, because they will get you on the phone, and they will let you talk to your child and then a lot of times 11:10:13 they’ll send them home when they send them home now, they reinforced a pattern of I go to the nerves. 11:10:20 I don’t feel while I come home. i’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve been like I hope she doesn’t know there’s this like loophole she’s genuinely loved school but I am very much one of those people 11:10:31 who like anticipates the next thing to worry about. 11:10:33 So that is my anxiety picking through a little bit x 11:11:12 one time I had to have a talk with a nurse and say one, She’s going to come to do because her stomach hurts, because, as a metaphobia, the fear of throw up and it makes your stomach her and her 11:11:23 anxiety shows up that way. And so if you sent her home, or if you call me as much as I love her, and I want to talk to her that reinforces her anxiety. 11:11:32 Though if you could just have her sit here and then go back to class when she’s feeling better, it also helps in the Kovat error. 11:11:37 To know like this child has stress anxiety, and it hits her stomach. 11:11:40 That helps, too. But the other part I want to mention is getting our kids to see this right. 11:11:47 And so, instead of doing these things to our kids for our kids, like I work with my kids and the kids in my practice. 11:11:54 And globally. When I talk to parents like to educate our kids. 11:11:59 We have our role in this. But I also say to my kids what will happen if you don’t go to school, and i’ll use examples. 11:12:06 I’ll say to my kids like my daughter didn’t go to a sleepway camp earlier this summer of anxiety, and I enforce her, cause it’s camp. 11:12:15 And it was the first time, and i’m like whatever but because of that Win, you had a hard time going to bandcan, which was just 2 h a day, and so I say to her, when we get into our anxiety then, it like hooks in a little bit 11:12:28 deeper. And so if you don’t, go to school today, you know, will it be easier harder to go to school tomorrow and and connect those dots for our kids? 11:12:38 Yeah. And then, do you ever have they ever in their school refusal? 11:12:40 Ever asked you to like home, school or like, Had they ever brought that up to you, or say, respond like, Well, then, why do I have to go to school like? 11:12:50 How do you respond to that, you know I mean it’s kind of funny, because my daughter hasn’t and she’s the one with the score. 11:12:54 If you’ve seen so social really wants to be a school. 11:13:00 And so we’re not talking about a lot of our kids want to be at school. 11:13:04 Yeah, It’s their anxiety that’s causing them to not be able to be there and ironically my son, who’s 12? 11:13:11 I’m always telling him, Do you want me to homeschool. 11:13:13 You do you want to be online, and he’s always like no no, mom, i’m fine because he is bullied and and that’s to me a different issue. you know it’s like I want you to be in the best environment that you 11:13:25 can prosper and if you’re feeling like you’re a horrible person, and people are talking about the time. 11:13:30 I don’t want you to feel that way so and he’s always like No, no, because he doesn’t like change, and I think he likes going to school too. 11:13:38 So I mean, I think. and those are my kids I know a lot of people in your audience. 11:13:44 We’ll have kids begging to be home schooled and there’s nothing wrong with home schooling in and up itself. 11:13:49 I mean, as I just said, i’ve been asking my son if I can homeschool him. 11:13:54 Not that I would teach him, but like online school but if it’s to avoid the distress. 11:14:00 And it’s distressed that’s going to be in many Many environment. 11:14:04 Then we are really just perpetuating the problem and not building resilience. 11:14:08 And for your audience, maybe with Spd in and of itself. the school environment is just too chaotic. 11:14:13 If it’s purely a sensory thing and it’s they’re overwhelmed with the smells and the noise and the chaos that is something to consider But when it’s social anxiety or like 11:14:23 with my kids, the grow up, or the fear of being perfect or all the other things that are going to be wherever they go. 11:14:31 Then it’s it’s gonna inevitably perpetuate the problem. 11:14:36 Yeah, would you say that for people who i’m thinking of kindergarten parents, or like preschool parents who are just starting now, especially coming out of Covid? 11:14:48 This is a lot of kids first school experience, would you say that There’s generally like a timeframe of where we would be like. 11:14:56 This is still considered transition. Maybe they’ll get used to it versus like No, this is actually something we should look more into like. 11:15:03 What would you advise someone when they should start being more intentional about how they respond to their child? score? 11:15:10 If refusal versus like, Oh, this is just a transition, you know. 11:15:15 Each child is different, but I would say but it’s more about the frequency of it, and the intensity, because if you have a child who is not happy about going to school, and you’re always like get up brush your hair go grab 11:15:30 your shoot, and you’re getting a little pushback that can go on for, like almost the entire school year in preschool or kindergarten, you know, and even if they’re in first second grade, and they’ve been out of school 11:15:40 because of Covid. You might get that the whole year. 11:15:43 They may just be like that for quite a while but I think it’s also the intensity the acute of it. 11:15:49 If my child is like hyperventilating can’t breathe, even if that’s going on for maybe the first 3 months. That’s concerning versus child who the entire year is giving me some slight pushback that is the security as 11:16:01 well, and then I mean, I think the first thing to check into our look, into which a lot of parents are dealing with is just more of the separation. 11:16:12 Anxiety piece of just like never being out of anyone’s care, let alone like, be in like a whole new environment with another caregiver, so that separation anxiety is something that’s a huge piece that would contribute to 11:16:24 school refusal, or would you separate those 2 things no that’s a very, very common reason for score refusal. 11:16:31 I mean the most common ones that I see in my world. 11:16:34 Number one separation anxiety and that’s not just little kids clinical separation anxiety starts middle school, though you’re talking about ages 10 to 13 clinical separation anxiety. 11:16:44 So if you could have a child who’s who has been able to separate and pretend to not doesn’t always have to be in that perfect little window. 11:16:51 But that’s onset normally a clinical separation anxiety. So that’s the number one reason for school refusal. 11:16:59 Another one is here. Throw up. I know that’s really weird but that’s a very common one, because when you’re anxious and overwhelmed you feel like you’re going to throw up and then you’re throwing up in front of 11:17:07 other people. So metaphoria is actually a big one. 11:17:10 Social anxiety, the very, very big one. Selective mutism, the big one, and perfectionism is a big one as well. 11:17:18 And so those are some of the things that that are really common. So as we are wrapping up here, i’m curious. if parents are dealing with any of those or looking at, any of those diagnoses, or maybe receive one of those or 11:17:34 has talked to a professional about that what’s the best there’s so many different kinds of interventions and therapies out there. 11:17:42 What are the best therapies or places for parents to focus on? I mean, if we’re thinking about like kids like kindergarten, and under versus like more school-aged children, would you say like a play? 11:17:56 Therapy is good for that or what are your recommendations i’m a little biased, just because i’m a kind of behavioral therapist. 11:18:04 I think any therapy for a child that’s anxious is helpful. 11:18:08 I mean play therapy can be really helpful as modality. 11:18:15 I think long term we want to teach kids how to think differently how to reframe their thoughts. And that’s kind of where the cognitive behavioral therapy comes from you have a directive play therapist I work with kids like 4 11:18:24 and 5, and do kind of a kid version of cognitive behavioral therapy where we’re working on empowering them and naming, externalizing their anxiety. And we’ve talked about this privately, too. 11:18:37 you know, like these approaches, to use and then feeling empowered to be resilient, and to sit with the discomfort. 11:18:45 And we can’t necessarily teach that. with play therapy unless it’s like directive play therapy and so you have to know what works for your child. 11:18:52 But I do feel like I mean, as soon as my kids are out of my womb, because I knew it was genetic, and they just showed they were anxious from birth. 11:18:59 All of my kids. Yeah, we started talking about externalizing the anxious feelings, and, you know, taking challenges and doing difficult things. 11:19:09 And you know separation anxiety there’s a lot of skill based stuff you need to do in order for them to get to school that it doesn’t even involve school and I play you know hide and go seek and 11:19:20 i’m somewhere else in the house and you can’t find me and it’s a game you know. 11:19:23 Learn how to sit with that discomfort can we have Walkie talkies, and you go, you know I go down the street, and I talk to you on my walkie, talkie, and I go over to grandma’s house and dad 11:19:32 watches. you and can you handle that discomfort without knowing When i’m going to be back, though doing those challenges and exposures, then helps them go to school. 11:19:44 Think the theme from everything i’ve been learning from you in the past few years, and from other professionals like yourself, is that we need to spend more time just letting our kids sit with their feelings because I grew up being 11:19:57 distracted from my feelings. lean entire time, like I have always said. 11:20:02 The best thing about my childhood was that my parents made sure I was always happy. 11:20:06 The worst thing about my childhood is that my parents made sure I was always happy like I. 11:20:10 They did everything in their power to not make me like sad. 11:20:14 As soon as I like, quivered my lip they would like shove a lip on my face, or my mom did all of my Easter egg hunts for me, because I would be sad if I didn’t catch all the easter accent 11:20:24 so she would be like, Oh, my 4 year old woman doing my But yeah, So that’s it. 11:20:29 That’s a huge theme, and I think that that’s something that we all a lot of parents in this generation are trying to learn. 11:20:38 Yeah, thank you so much for all of your words of wisdom. 11:20:42 I hope that this episode was helpful for other people. Can you please let everyone know all of the amazing resources that you share, and where they can find more of you? 11:20:49 Yeah, I have an online school. So I make courses for parents on. 11:20:53 You know how to teach them how to build these skills, And I actually have a new course coming out directly for kids who have anxiety, who have OCD. 11:21:00 But I have a Class on Anxiety and a Class on OCD. 11:21:05 For parents, and they can find that at 80 parenting survival school com. 11:21:09 And I do a podcast, like you and I have a Youtube channel for kids, and they can find all that stuff at ad parenting revival. 11:21:15 Com: Wow! I did not know you had Youtube, videos for kids. 11:21:19 What ages would you recommend for your Youtube, videos? that you have right now and then for the course that’s coming out? 11:21:24 Because that sounds really interesting. Yeah, the Youtube is really for like school-age kids and older, I have a lot of young adults who actually watch it, too. 11:21:32 So I would say, hands on the cognitive functioning, maybe like 7 and older. because I talk like this, you know, I talk. 11:21:40 I talk to kids like they they get it. and understand and so they’re not really babyish. So if you have a very mature kid, they could definitely handle it. 11:21:47 But certainly the older kids too, my oCD class that i’m coming out with for kids and teens. 11:21:53 I’m saying, 7 to 21 just because again I talk like this. 11:21:57 And But I think that when we talk to kids like they’re mature, and they can get things they rise to the occasion. 11:22:07 Yeah. Oh, i’m so excited for that to come out and I will definitely share that with everyone. 11:22:11 Once it comes out. Keep me updated on the date when that launches. 11:22:14 Yeah, Thank Number 29. Oh, September the 20 ninth. 11:22:19 Okay, perfect. This episode might be out by then. so if This is after September the twentieth. I definitely go check out Natasha’s website and check out the courses that she has But thank you for your time. 11:22:29 Natasha was so good. finally getting to chat with you here on the podcast and I hope everyone goes to go check out your Instagram and your Youtube and your website. No, thank you.




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Laura Petix, MS OTR/L

I’m an enneagram 6, so my brain is constantly moving. My OT lenses never turn off and I can’t “un-see” the sensory and other developmental skills that go in to literally every activity. I love taking what I see and breaking it down into simple terms so parents can understand what goes into their child’s behavior and skills.

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