When Kids Refuse to Go to School

I’ve never run into a person who yearns for their middle school days.
~Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Most people cringe when they think of their middle school days and wish they could have skipped right over those years. Other kids head for the hills at other times, usually those that involve transitions.

When children are just starting school, when they switch from lower to upper school, or even when there are big changes in the family (births, deaths, divorces), children can prefer the safety of home. They may complain of a variety of ailments – most commonly headaches and stomachaches. This is known as school refusal.

Often parents feel frustrated and at a loss. It is hard enough to get through the morning routines without having to cajole your child into going to school. Is he really sick? Do you need to make child-care arrangements? What are you doing wrong and what is wrong with your child?!

It is often these last thoughts that create a great deal of shame and blame. Parents may just want their kids to be in school like everyone else and may not want to spend the time getting to the bottom of the problem.

Reach out for help

Sometimes this shame can cause parents to hide the problem from the school. However, the opposite strategy may work best; approach school personnel sooner, rather than later. This can help by:

  • providing you with information. You can ask them if anything is happening in school that may be bothering your child. Is he struggling in class? Does he have friends? Are they aware of any bullying that you child may exposed to, even if he isn’t the target? Are there any changes in routines, teachers, or students in the class?
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  • providing them with information. Perhaps the teachers can approach your child differently if they know about an illness in the family or other struggle. They can keep an eye out during school hours to see if your child is having difficulty either socially or academically.
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  • offering help. Even though it may feel like your child is the only one pulling the covers back up over her head in the mornings, most schools have previously dealt with school. Especially in the early years, schools may have procedures in place, such as having a guidance counselor meet your child in the morning and help her ease into her day.

Hopefully, with your combined efforts, you will be able to nip the problem in the bud. If not, you will need the school’s support to get your child back into school as soon as possible. Better to have already begun the conversation than to have to start it down the road when you are wondering what is wrong at school and they are wondering what is going on at home.

Although it can feel like the school is your enemy when your child refuses to go, the staff is really on your side, wanting your child in class so he can learn.

By Deb Cohen, Certified Parenting Educator
This entry was posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, School Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

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