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School refusal

Japan With Kids - Forums: Education in Japan: School refusal
By Avamarie on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 7:24 am:

I need help for my 7 yrs old son who is a first time schooler
and also refuses to go to school after a few days of attending.

we live in chiba and any help and suggestion will be much appreciated ..

thank you

By Drdo1 on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 9:39 am:

Sorry to hear this. This is a common problem but usually for kids a bit older. Be patient with him; don't force him to go.

Is this the 1st time your son has gone to any kind of schooling in Japan? Did he do pre-school or kindergarten? And the school, is it an all-Japanese school or and International one? Sometimes, the teachers at the international schools will allow parents to come and "visit" while the child adjusts.

We also live in Chiba and had some tough adjustments initially from the sweet-wholesome, nurturing ways of the kindergarten to the more strict ways of 1st grade elementary school. But because our child had some friends from her past schools, she did better.

Are there any other non-Japanese kids at your son's school?

By Uco on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 9:53 am:


I understand your concerns as my son couldn't go to school in one part of his low teen days.

It happens a lot to younger children as well, although the characteristics are quite different. The great part of earlier ages is that parents are able to support them better.

How long has your son been absent from school? I figure it's less than half a year which is very normal. Does he go to your local public Japanese school or a private one?

Either way, try to keep in touch with his teachers, school councelors, other parents and students. If there is a language barrier, ask your city hall or ward office to see if there is public assistance available.

There is a lot of great things you can discover through these hard times. In the long run, hopefully you'd be able to look back and think it was worth while.

"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." by Lena Horne

By Avamarie on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 4:44 pm:

thank you for your replies.
he goes to a public school and we have talked about it with
the teacher. Right now he spends longer hours
at the school clinic or faculty and the teacher brings him in class for
an hour or two whenever he goes to school,
but this week he only attended twice.
i am actually planning on consulting a specialist regarding
this matter perhaps a psychologist or psychiatrist maybe..
i read about this problem somewhere and it says that this problem must be dealt with soon otherwise its going to be a problem for him even if he becomes adult.

i will see if he will still refuse to go to school next week.
if so i will consult a specialist already

thank you all
i appreciate all your help


By Uco on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 6:57 pm:


That's a good idea that you are planning to get advise from specialists. I hope you are aware that advise from specialists may be available free of charge at your local hokenjo or Board of Education as well.

Also, do keep in mind that most if not all specialists agree on the fact that you should not force the patient to see the doctor for psycological help. If it so happens that your son refuses to see specialists, one thing you can do is to go see the doctor without the child, just you or you and your spouse. It may even be convincing for your son if you can say, "I saw this doctor myself and (s)he was very easy to talk to."

I also got a lot of help from various groups of parents in the same situation. It's such a relief itself to talk to people who know what you're talking about and you can get more ideas. Ask around for "futoukou-jidou no oya no kai."

But there are good times and bad times. I feel that now is the season when people tend to get a little more depressed than other times of the year. This is also a time when students are restless trying to practice for various events and festivals. I hope there are better days in the near future.

By Judith on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 8:10 pm:

Dear Avamarie,

I am concerned that you are relying on a specialist/psychologist for solutions to your problem. I had similar problems with my son who refused to go to school (about the same age as your son) because he was bullied by his teacher. Like you, I turned to a school psychologist who advised me to force my son to go to school and "deal with" his situation, stop complaining and learn that "this is the way life is." I must say I had serious problems with his professional diagnosis. My solution was to change schools, and after searching for a school with caring and empathetic teachers and staff, my son now cannot wait to go to school and has a wonderful group of friends who support him. I realize this is not a viable solution for everyone but it worked for us. Sometimes it is not the child who is having the problem but the school itself. Unfortunately, I found that the school administration, teachers and psychologist were too quick to place the blame on the child; it was easier for them this way because then they didn't have to correct the serious problems they caused. I urge you to keep talking with your son to find a solution that will keep him happy. I sincerely hope everything works out for you.


By Uco on Friday, October 14, 2011 - 8:25 pm:

Judith has a point, and that's why I prefered to see the specialist (or teacher or what not) myself first before thinking of letting my son see him/her.

Even if the specialist or any person for that matter is a generally reliable one, there always is the chemestry issue.

By Tombleung on Monday, October 17, 2011 - 11:00 am:

Is your son now going to a public or private school? My son had this problem too. At first we thought it just took time and should be fine a few months later. Later on we found out that it was the school and its teacher being not flexible and understanding enough to new comers. As much as we all know that all students are different, they chose to ignore this fact as this makes their life much easier, and commercially easier to manager if they just provide a cookie cutter style of education. After all, they are here to make money.

Long story short, it was difficult. We visited all the international schools in Tokyo, I mean all of them. All the schools have an unspoken protocol to pass on the students information to each other, (this is so unacceptable -) so they know what you are up to even before you call them. Luckily we found a very responsible school with superb management and very understanding teachers in Shibuya. My son had a really great time after we switched. It was hard work, but it was worth it.

Psychologists may or may not help. Most English speaking psychologists also work for most international schools other than their private practice, so they will not be sympathetic to your situation. There is no easy way, you and your family is your son's closet alliance. Have patience, there are a lot of helpful parents out there, reach out and you will find that you are not alone.

By Shikokumom on Monday, October 17, 2011 - 11:44 pm:

Hi, Avamarie.

From what I understand, this is your son's first time in a "formal" school setting - as in he has never been to a hoikuen/daycare or youchien/kindy. Is this correct?

If this is case, it might just mean that the poor thing never got a chance to be properly "socialized" in this environment.

You mentioned that he goes to a public school so it's Japanese only.
Is his first language Japanese or English?

If it's English, it's possible that the lack of socialization is exacerbated by the lack of Japanese communication skills.

Is he being bullied? Or perceive that he's being bullied (because he can't communicate properly)?

My son had a tough time the first few months of entering a J-kindy because he couldn't communicate. But by the summer, he was in there with no problems and can speak better Japanese than me and my husband.

Personally, pulling him out of classes to sit by himself is the worst thing they can do as your son needs to get accustomed to the routines, the environment and the other children around him. Pulling him out further isolates him from the group and puts a lid on any chances he may have with socializing with his classmates - especially potential friends who can help him along.

I apologize if I'm making those assumptions but those details could help.

I worked in Japanese public school system for 10 years as an ALT and know what it's like for newbies coming in. I was also friends with a missionary family from Spain and they had to put their kids in J-school from day 1 - there was 7 of them from kindy to 1st grade junior high! It was a nightmare but they kept going despite the huge difference in culture (not to mention culture shock) and they soon adjusted to their new life and the school adjusted to them. It was easier for the girls than the boys - especially the oldest who was in jr. high but he eventually got sorted out half way through the year. By 2nd grade he was comfy enough to become a nuisance from time to time. I taught 3 of them.

I'm now a preschool teacher and one of the things we tell our parents in the beginning of the year is that there is a high possibility that your child will not want to come to school. They will cry, they will act up, the will do lots of things to get your attention and get you to keep them home. What kid doesn't want to stay home with Mum?
The worst thing they (mums) can do is indulge that behaviour. We always advise them to drop the kids off through tears and turmoil and give us a month or two to get them sorted out. They usually settle after a month or so (this is for new kids).

Ask your son's teacher what kind of routines they have in school. 1nensei's shouldn't really have too much to do and it's not that much different from 3rd grade preschool/kindy only that the kids have more responsibility. If your child's never been to a school before, then it's absolutely essential that he has a routine (both at home and at school) to follow. This helps him feel secure (because he knows what to do next) and build confidence. (For example, pass through the gates, greet the teacher, change from outdoor to indoor shoes, put away his bag and perform his morning duties - if he has one. There's also school lunch duties, cleaning duties, attendance etc. All those things he needs to get accustomed to and he needs to be able to do them with his peers.
He also needs to be around his classmates so that he can learn how to communicate and most importantly, pick up "the code" (if his first language is not Japanese).

If perhaps there maybe any developmental or behavioral problems that you might be concerned about but do not know how to proceed, may I recommend this book: Yardsticks by Chip Wood
*I'm mentioning this because the system in Japan is set up in such a way that teachers are not allowed to tell parents that there might be a problem with their child. We're not even supposed to tell a parent that their child needs to get their eyes checked because they're always squinting at the board . . .

I apologize again if I've offended you through my assumptions but I hope I'm able to help you out.

By Pato on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 1:29 pm:

Sometimes it is the teacher that is a bully. Sad but true. Don't assume that your child is the one with the problem. Try to look at all the possibilities. This kind of problem can be difficult to figure out, because sometimes the child is not communicating clearly or we don't hear what the child is trying to say.

By Avamarie on Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 11:30 am:

thanks everyone..
sorry i wasnt able to reply soon.
last week we went to the specialist and she
suggested for my son to attend lunch break in school and just do the studying at home by himself for now.

honestly there is a much deeper reason and problem behind
this but i cant just discuss it for now..
but i will in time..

thank you everyone
God bless


By Drdo1 on Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:17 pm:

Oh Avamarie:

You must be so relieved to have some sense of direction. Just the fact that you were heard by the specialist helped, I'm sure. It sounds like you'll attempt things at school slowly, step-by-step. We will be anxious to hear how this works for your son (and you.)

We tried doing the schoolwork at home too, but it was not so easy. Too many other distractions and having 'mom as the teacher' wasn't so fun.

Having a deeper issue than what you expected can be scary, since you're probably walking into unknown territory. Hope you have a support base, for you and your son.

Thoughts and prayers go out to you, Avamarie.

By Drdo1 on Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 3:18 pm:

Oh Avamarie:

You must be so relieved to have some sense of direction. Just the fact that you were heard by the specialist helped, I'm sure. It sounds like you'll attempt things at school slowly, step-by-step. We will be anxious to hear how this works for your son (and you.)

We tried doing the schoolwork at home too, but it was not so easy. Too many other distractions and having 'mom as the teacher' wasn't so fun.

Having a deeper issue than what you expected can be scary, since you're probably walking into unknown territory. Hope you have a strong support base, for you and your son.

Thoughts and prayers go out to you, Avamarie.

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