School Refusal: How To Help A Child Who Doesn’t Want To Go To School

School refusal can be stressful for children and parents, but gently discussing the concern and getting to the root cause can help parents identify the problem.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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Getting a good education is important. Whether a child is enrolled in private school, a homeschooling co-op, or public school, being around other children is part of the process. Unfortunately, an increasing number of young students are dealing with anxiety and depression and school refusal is on the rise, so how do parents help ease fears and frustrations related to going to school?

Being understanding is the first step. Although it may be frustrating to have to carry a child to class or drag them away from their comforts, discussing the importance of new experiences and learning from others is helpful. Parents can also utilize these talks to discover the root causes of school refusal. 

There are many reasons why children do not wish to leave home. For years students have faced bullying, changing schedules, loss of friends, and embarrassing moments that make them shrink from going to class. Now, in the post pandemic era, younger generations have the added issues of having been isolated, masked, and even treated like a plague at times leading to mass mental issues that have led to school refusal. 

In addition to being understanding, parents need to stay positive and provide children with positive coping mechanisms like joining extracurricular activities or writing their feelings out. By offering proper outlets to give children the ability to feel in control of their emotions they are more likely to see school refusal as an obstacle to overcome instead of just a solution to their problems. This mindset is important to ensure that a student’s mental health does not suffer as they attend class. 

It is also necessary to assure children that they are not alone. Reminding them that many students are experiencing the same problems will help them to feel better about themselves. It may give them the courage to reach out to their peers and find support from classmates even when expressing school refusal. 

Most importantly, parents must not cater to children’s school refusal. While it may be difficult to make them go to class, pandering to students’ fears will not resolve them. They must attend, but this can be eased if parents take them to school and pick them up. Being present and even offering to visit for lunch every once in a while displays the caring nature of the situation, as does developing a good relationship with the school counselor and teachers. 

Lastly, school refusal may be a result of imbalance. Children need to receive adequate sleep and proper nutrition to think clearly. If all of these suggestions have been consistently tried for long periods of time without helping a student, then it may be time to seek outside help from a child psychologist.

school refusal

While many students are experiencing an increased rate of school refusal, this is linked to anxiety and depression caused by post-COVID stress as well as other common childhood issues. These can be lessened with support and proper coping mechanisms as well as a balanced lifestyle that encourages children’s overall health and well-being. Although in some cases, professional help is needed, parents are not powerless to guide children through difficult times.