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Date of last update: 9/9/2017.

Forum Name: Pediatric Topics

Question: 6yr old refusing to go to school in foreign country

 careb - Wed Jan 21, 2009 6:11 am

We are a family from North America living in Spain for one year. My son is in a public spanish school and has been since September. He is finding school very frustrating due to the higher level of education that they are currently at here versus at home. The language barrier is also an issue with certain teachers as they speak no english and his spanish is minimal. Just this week he is now starting to heavily complain and advise that he no longer wishes to go to school. He says he doesn't understand and the work is "so hard".

My question is, is it possible that he may suffer any long term adverse effects by continuing at school here? For the majority of his day when he is with someone who speaks english I think he does ok, however with spanish only teachers I think he has a hard time communicating or understanding.

This week he was supposed to write a math test, as he did not know what to do he crunched up his paper and did not complete any of it. Please advise. Thanks!
 Debbie Miller, RN - Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:47 pm

User avatar Hello,
This is certainly not an unusual problem, even in an all-American school. Sometimes children get frustrated for any number of reasons and do not want to go to school. I would try to be supportive of him in searching for the issues he is having trouble with and speak to the teachers about how difficult it is for him due to the language barrier. Encourage them to cut him some slack since he is still so young anyway and won't be in their school system for the rest of his education. Because of this, perhaps they could modify their expectations.

Talk to your child about his fears and problems to be sure there is not another underlying concern that should be addressed. If you deal compassionately with him and give credibility to his fears while conveying the importance of continuing to try and giving him confidence that he can do hard things if he doesn't give up. It's OK if it takes him longer to learn a particular skill or subject. The important thing is to be persistent and ask for the help he needs from your and/or his teacher.

Barring any really strange problem, abuse or other trauma, keeping him in this school should not have any lasting adverse effect. As long as he doesn't feel a lot of pressure from you to be able to work beyond his ability and he knows you understand his feelings and that you support his efforts, chances are he will come out of this being much more empowered to tackle hard things in the future. I would see this as a positive experience in perseverance - as skill that will help him his whole life.

If there is a school psychologist available, it is possible he could receive some help, sometimes through small pull-out social groups or other play activities that are positive and reinforce the fun elements of going to school.

Good luck.

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