June 27


What To Do if Your Child Refuses To Go to School

By NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

June 27, 2024

school refusal

A child refusing to go to school can be distressing for the family. This complex issue can stem from various factors, including anxiety, depression, academic stress, bullying, or family problems. It’s a significant challenge for families because it can impact a child’s academic progress, social development, and overall well-being. 

Addressing this issue promptly is important to prevent further academic setbacks and social consequences, as staying away from school can exacerbate underlying problems and lead to long-term educational and emotional challenges. In this article, we explore school refusal, including the reasons behind it, how to deal with it, and how our team at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights can help.

Understanding the Reasons Behind School Refusal

Girl in purple and black long sleeve shirt holding black pen writing on white paper

School refusal can stem from a variety of underlying causes, and each requires careful consideration and targeted intervention. One of the most common causes is anxiety, such as separation anxiety, social anxiety, or generalized anxiety disorder. Children experiencing anxiety may be scared to leave their caregivers, struggle with social interactions at school, or worry about their academic performance. Bullying can also contribute to school refusal, as kids feel unsafe or traumatized at school. Learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other academic challenges, can also lead to feelings of frustration and inadequacy at school. 

Family issues, such as parental separation, conflict at home, or significant life changes, can impact your child’s emotional well-being and affect their ability to cope with school-related stressors. Identifying the root cause of school refusal is key to developing an appropriate strategy to address the issue. A thorough assessment by our team at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights, involving input from parents, teachers, and mental health professionals, can help pinpoint the underlying factors contributing to a child’s reluctance to attend school. Once you know the root cause, you can tailor the interventions to address your child’s needs.

Establishing Open Communication

Create a safe and supportive environment for your child to express their concerns and feelings, as this is important for their emotional well-being and development. Active listening is key — always give your full attention, maintain eye contact, and validate your child’s emotions without judgment. Show empathy by putting yourself in their shoes, acknowledging their feelings, and helping them find solutions for their problems without minimizing them. This helps build trust between you and your child and encourages more open communication. 

Developing a Consistent Routine

Create a consistent morning routine and set clear expectations for school attendance. A structured morning routine provides stability and predictability and helps ease stress and anxiety. Set clear expectations around school attendance, helping your child to understand why school is important and instilling a sense of responsibility and accountability. 

To make the transition to school smoother and more predictable, start by ensuring a consistent sleep schedule so your child gets a good night’s rest and wakes up with enough time to get ready. Prepare your child for school with a reliable morning routine that allows time for breakfast, activities they enjoy, and getting dressed without having to rush. Use visual aids such as charts to help your kids pack their bags and get ready for school the night before to avoid morning stress and ensure a smoother start to the day.

Seeking Professional Support

It’s important to consider professional help, such as counseling or therapy, when your child refuses to go to school despite trying various strategies yourself at home. Here are some signs to look out for that indicate your child may benefit from additional help:

  • They refuse persistently and consistently: If your child continues to resist school, this may indicate underlying emotional or psychological factors that require professional support. 
  • They have physical symptoms: If your child complains of stomachaches, headaches, or nausea when faced with the idea of going to school, this could indicate anxiety or other mental health concerns. 
  • They’re showing changes in behavior: Noticeable changes in your child’s behavior, such as withdrawal, mood swings, irritability, or aggression, may indicate emotional distress.
  • Their academic performance is declining: If your child’s refusal to go to school affects their academic performance, it’s important to address this as soon as possible.  
  • They’re withdrawing socially: If your child is avoiding all social interactions, not just school, they may have social anxiety or other socio-emotional challenges that need support. 

Early intervention is essential for addressing school refusal and the underlying issues that contribute to it. Counseling or therapy can help identify these concerns and the root causes, whether anxiety, bullying, or other factors. You can lean on resources, such as school counselors, pediatricians, online parenting forums, or private therapists, such as those at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights.

Collaborating With the School

Work closely with your child’s school to address school refusal. This can provide a collaborative approach, helping you understand the context and implement the right strategies. When communicating with teachers and administrators, aim for openness and honesty. Share any relevant information, such as your child’s behavior at home, their fears or emotions, or anything they’ve experienced recently that could be contributing to their school refusal. 

Attend meetings with teachers, counselors, and administrators to discuss your child’s progress, review any accommodations or interventions, and adjust them if needed. A potential school refusal treatment plan can include gradually reintroducing your child to school, starting with shorter days or a shorter week and increasing over time. You can also request individualized support, such as a designated safe space for them to relax or a counselor they can speak to. Positive reinforcement and peer support, such as speaking to other students refusing to attend school, can also be helpful. 

Take the First Step: Schedule a Consultation

If your child is refusing to go to school, take action and seek professional guidance. Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth Arlington Heights in Illinois, where our experienced professionals can assess the situation and develop a personalized treatment plan for you and your child. Early intervention can help you establish the issues your child is facing and address them early on. This can positively impact your child’s academic and emotional well-being.

Image by Carl Jorgensen is licensed with Unsplash License

NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

About the author

For over 20 years, NeuroHealth Arlington Heights has been offering neuropsychological and psychological assessments and treatments for people of all ages. These assessments and treatments address Behavioral, Emotional, & Social Issues, Neurocognitive Functions, and Neurodevelopmental Growth.