Helping your Child Overcome School Refusal


For some parents, getting your children to school can be a major struggle. If your child often throws a tantrum or has a meltdown before school, it is possible that he or she has school avoidance, or school refusal. School refusal is affecting a growing number of families nationwide. It is more than nagging your kid to get ready for the day; school refusal is a serious emotional problem that is very distressing for both children and parents.

Do your weekday mornings cause a significant amount of stress for the entire family? It’s critical to determine what is at the root of the school avoidance that your child may be experiencing, as each circumstance is unique. School refusal can be attributed to stress inducing situations like bullying, peer pressure, or academic concerns, unhealthy attachments to the parents, or underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. Therefore, it’s important to begin to understand your child’s school refusal and help him or her overcome it.

If your son or daughter is struggling to get to school, or you are starting to see some unhealthy patterns developing, here are some helpful suggestions:

  1. Establish expectations early on –
    It’s best to set expectations when your child first starts going to school, during the preschool/early elementary years. Think about it—attending school is your child’s job! He or she has daily responsibilities at school from an early age. Children start with tasks like being the messenger, table cleaner, or folder checker, moving on to more serious responsibilities such as writing down notes, handing in homework, and taking tests later on. Your child should understand that he or she has duties to fulfill and he or she should only be absent due to illness.

  2. Have a consistent routine –
    Children like following routines. Try to stick to the same weekday morning routine throughout the school year. Having consistency will help reinforce rules and expectations in the morning. We get dressed, we eat breakfast, we wash our face and brush our teeth, and we’re off!

  3. Reflect on your own actions –
    Think about your actions and your response to your child; how might they be contributing to the issue at hand? Are you giving in too easily when your child says that he or she isn’t going to school today? Are you setting a good example of following a routine? Can you respond to your child’s refusal in a more effective way?

  4. Act now! –
    The longer a child or teen goes without attending school, the harder it is to get back on track. The anxiety about returning to school will only grow with each additional absence. That’s why it’s best to act now! Address the problem directly by getting your child the help needed to overcome school refusal.

  5. Take a team-based approach –
    When dealing with school avoidance, you are not alone. Work collaboratively with the school and with a therapist to establish a plan that works best for your child. Everyone has your child’s best interest in mind. Approaching the school refusal from a team perspective will be the best of course of action to help your child at school and at home.

School refusal is difficult for the child and his or her parents. Remember, you are not alone in your struggle! With proper treatment, children and teens can overcome school refusal. You will get through this. Use these tips to help your child get back on track and finish the year on a positive note!