Every parent is familiar with the school morning struggle. It’s not uncommon for teens to complain that they don’t want to go to school, and beg to be allowed to stay home. But truancy is very different from school refusal which can have long-term negative effects.
What is School Refusal?
School refusal can take many forms. Maybe your teen is constantly late to school or leaves before the school day ends. Or maybe they’re not attending school at all. They may complain of physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachache, or fatigue and cite these as reasons not to be at school.
Oftentimes, teens who are exhibiting signs of school refusal are dealing with deeper issues than just not wanting to be in the classroom. They may be struggling with anxiety, bullying, or depression. Refusing to attend school allows your teen an escape from the distressing aspects of the school day, but this relief is short term. When a student continues to miss school, returning can feel even more difficult. They may fall behind academically and feel socially disconnected from their peers and teachers. It is important for teens to learn how to handle school-related anxiety. If they are unable to cope with these daily challenges, teens may become stuck in the cycle of school refusal.
Stop the Cycle of School Refusal
Talk with Your Teen: When teens feel judged or shamed, they will immediately shut down. By talking openly and honestly with your teen, you can show them that it is safe to share their feelings with you. Having calm conversations around school refusal can help your teen identify the reasons they are trying to avoid attending.
Reach Out To Their Teachers: Meet with your teen’s teacher to discuss the problem. They may have a better understanding of what exactly is happening during the school day. You may also need to meet with school staff to craft an individualized educational plan (IEP) that addresses your teen’s needs. Some teens need to gradually reintegrate back to school, going to school in small doses as they get used to it. Working at home or with a tutor can help bridge this gap.
Help Them Build a Support System: Have your teen identify people at school (friends, teachers, a coach, etc) that they can go to when they are struggling. If they’re dealing with anxiety, maybe a friend can help keep them calm. If they are dealing with bullying, having a teacher they can go to when issues arise can make them feel safer while at school.
Focus on the Positives: Have your teen make a list of things they enjoy about school. Maybe they enjoy their lunch period when they can have free time with their friend or maybe it’s band practice. Have them focus on how much they enjoy those activities. When they are feeling the urge to skip school, they can refer to their list and be reminded of the positive side of school.
Find Help: School refusal is a serious problem that can quickly worsen. It can be beneficial to work with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in anxiety and can help support you and your teen and they work towards re-engaging in school.
Solstice East Can Help
The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff.
We are a privately owned residential treatment center incorporating cutting-edge therapeutic techniques to help our clients address a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues. At Solstice East, your teen will be supported by a passionate team of therapeutic experts who have extensive training and experience working with trauma, loss, anxiety, addiction, and unhealthy behaviors. We are a proven leader in successfully treating adolescent students struggling with a variety of challenges. For more information please call (828) 471-0221.