School Refusal Anxiety: What to Do When Your Child Won’t Go to School

Anxiety | 0 comments

It is not always easy to head back to school. Sometimes, you may notice your child feeling emotional stress or trying to avoid returning to school. They may even make excuses not to attend or act out and refuse to go to school. While this does not always signify anxiety, it is important to take school refusal seriously and invite open conversation with your child.

School refusal could be a sign of a deeper anxiety. Physical symptoms of anxiety, emotional distress, crankiness, or a strong emotional response could indicate a need for further treatment from a mental health professional.

Identify Triggers for School Refusal

Teens and adolescents are constantly under pressure to meet expectations. High performance in academics can set them up for a successful future. Making new friends and fitting in with peers can positively impact their school experience. Discovering or excelling at hobbies and extracurricular activities can further add new goals to their busy lives. Because of all the new experiences they have on a regular basis, there could be many triggers for anxiety that could lead to school refusal.

Some common triggers for school refusal are:

  • School exams, homework, or other academic requirements
  • Bullying or not fitting in with peers
  • Public speaking or having to present work in front of a class
  • Family or home problems
  • Learning disability
  • Medical or physical health issues

In some cases, school refusal could be triggered by underlying mental health struggles, such as social anxiety or depression. If that is the case, the solution could be found through a mental health treatment program.

School Refusal Interventions

It is important to understand how your child is feeling when they avoid or refuse to go to school. Open communication with your teen or adolescent child allows them to express their feelings comfortably. There may be a certain cause for them not wanting to attend school. In other cases, there may not be a specific reason for them to avoid school. Both reasons could still indicate mental health concerns that need to be addressed. Through communication or hosting an intervention, it can be easier to understand what mental health treatment programs or other solutions could help them. 

Evidence-Based Treatment for School Refusal

While not all reasons for school refusal are the same, there is plenty of research and case studies to guide parents in an understanding of which treatments are the best solutions. Evidence-based treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and psychosocial interventions. There are also some programs, such as outpatient treatment programs, that may combine several types of therapies into a customized plan unique to your child’s mental health.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Adolescent cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) uses goal-oriented talk therapy to manage stress, anxiety, and depression. For school refusal, it uses methods such as positive reinforcement and coping skills to re-introduce teens and adolescents suffering from anxiety or depression to the idea of attending school. CBT challenges the patient’s perceptions of school and the reasons why they are avoiding or refusing to attend.     

Psychosocial Interventions

When a child is refusing to go to school, it may require an intervention to get them the help that they need, or to get them to return to school. Psychosocial interventions addressing the emotions and mental health issues that may be triggering a school refusal response. Through an intervention, your teen or adolescent child’s mental health concerns are addressed to find them the right mental health treatment programs that they need to overcome their school-related emotions.

School Refusal Tips for Parents

There are plenty of things parents and guardians can do to encourage their child to return to school. The most important thing to practice is patience. One conversation may not be enough to get your child to return to school. It may take gradual changes for your child to feel encouraged to return fully.

Here are some tips for parents of teens who refuse to attend school:

  • Parental support for children with anxiety: approach the situation in a way that supports your child in their feelings and encourages them to express their emotions. This helps you get to the root of the school refusal causes.
  • Speak with a mental health professional: outpatient treatment centers and other mental health treatment programs help patients combat mental health struggles through high levels of expertise in psychology.   
  • Don’t fight it: Fighting with your child to go to school may only risk exacerbating the issue. If your child refuses to go to school, it’s important to first learn the reason.
  • Know your school policies: As a parent, it’s important to learn the school policies for attendance to ensure your child does not fall behind as they work to improve their mental health.

Related Posts

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety in Teens

The number of teens diagnosed with anxiety has increased over the years. According to the CDC, the number of children between ages 6-17 who have ever been diagnosed with anxiety has increased since 2003. Between 2016-2019, 9.4% of children suffered from a diagnosed...

Anxiety in Teens: A Guide for Parents and Guardians

Teenagers have a lot on their plate. Each day, they have to deal with pressure from academics, sports, friends, and everything else going on in the world. With all of this going on in their lives, it is not surprising that teenagers are increasingly prone to...