Everything is prepared for a school day; packed lunches, laid-out clothes, and completed homework. But suddenly, your child is refusing to go to school. Whether it’s a full-blown tantrum or they’re begging you to let them stay home, there are a few school refusal tips for parents you can follow that will help change the mood. And if school avoidance is becoming a habit that’s causing emotional distress for you or your child, we’ve got you covered too.
10 School Refusal Causes
Unfortunately, tantrums or fits to avoid school outlines a bigger problem. Indeed, several underlying causes contribute to a child not wanting to go to school anymore. And often, there isn’t just one cause;
- Bullying or teasing
- Problems with a teacher
- Conflict with friends or peers
- Poor academic performance
- Problems with family at home
- Death in the family
- New sibling
- Starting or changing schools
- School refusal can also be a symptom of several mental disorders, including anxiety disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and adjustment disorder, among others
6 School Refusal Tips for Parents
1. Act quickly
A missed day here and there is understandable. Maybe your child is sick, or there’s an unavoidable family event. But several absences can spiral, causing poor academic performance. Therefore, observe your child’s behavior, particularly their academic performance or emotional state, after they return home. If you’ve noticed any changes lasting more than a day, speak with your child.
2. Ask and listen
One of the best school refusal tips for parents is to open the line of communication with their children. Gently ask with an open heart, “Why don’t you want to go to school?” If they refuse to tell you, break down the school day one part at a time. For example, ask about the bus ride, their teachers, the classroom, lunchtime, recess, and schoolwork. You can even use a chart with emojis to help them rate how each part of their school day feels.
3. Analyze home life
As challenging as this tip may be, it’s important to analyze problems at home. Reflect on any recurring problems or sudden changes at home that might affect your child. For example, has there been a death in the family? Or are there problems happening between you and your partner? Or maybe your child isn’t sleeping well? Any change may help you identify a cause of a more complex situation.
4. Create a routine
Since school refusal is a symptom of several children and adolescent mental health disorders, creating a consistent or mindful routine will be extremely helpful for those with anxiety. In fact, anxious children thrive with predictable routines. Also, think about creating a visible chart for your children to follow and ensuring that morning and night routines are set in place.
5. Speak with the school
How your child interacts with their peers and teachers is key to understanding a potential cause of school avoidance. Therefore, contact the school counselor and teachers to determine their perspective and provide what you know about your child. Communicating with the school directly will allow collaboration and problem-solving to help your child overcome any potential anxiety associated with the school. For example, if they’re struggling with their school work, you and the teacher can work towards improving their confidence and grades.
6. Set clear expectations
While it’s important to be supportive and empathetic towards your child, it’s also just as beneficial to set clear expectations. For example, if your child has anxiety about speaking in front of the classroom, help them understand that anxiety isn’t dangerous. It feels horrible, but slowly facing their fears will help them become more emotionally resilient. As you help them overcome their fears while being firm about school attendance, they learn how to develop a growth mindset rather than avoiding what feels scary.
6 School Refusal Tips for Teachers
1. Communicate with the parents
If you’re concerned about your student’s behavior or academic performance, speak with their parents as soon as possible. Intervention is more effective when provided with the onset of a mental health disorder. For example, ignoring signs of anxiety or depression can negatively impact their grades, social skills, and life outcomes.
2. Teach mental health
It’s always better to teach children about emotions and mental health from an early age. And thankfully, this subject can be taught at any age. For example, teach them about the brain, how it functions, and how worrying feels in their bodies. You can use a toy brain model to engage their attention. Continue the lesson plan by teaching meditation, mindfulness and breathing techniques to help them process strong emotions from a young age.
3. Speak out against bullying
While bullying may seem like an intimidating topic to tackle, there are a few ways to limit it and help students who are affected;
- Communicate your expectations early. Explain to the classroom the zero-tolerance policy for bullying and the consequences
- Along with tip #2, teach empathy and kindness. Show your students how to communicate and respect individual differences
- Speak to the student bullying and the student being bullied. Having private discussions will allow the chances for students to vent their concerns and receive help
4. Assess for learning difficulties
Students experiencing difficulties with their academic performance may also feel embarrassed or afraid to attend school. But the challenges behind their school work could be because of a learning difficulty. According to The Learning Disabilities Association of America, 60 percent of adults have undiagnosed or untreated learning disabilities. This fact means many children aren’t receiving the treatment and attention they need. Therefore, keep an eye out for children presenting learning difficulties and speak to their parents to provide extra help.
5. Assign peer buddies
Those with anxiety benefit from having assigned buddy systems to make friends. Assess what students you think have shared interests or similar personalities and pair them up for certain projects. Having this interaction will help both students have better social interactions and a stronger motivation to attend school.
6. Set up incentive plans
One of the best ways to combat school avoidance is to get creative. For example, set up an incentive plan like a sticker chart in the morning for every kid who attends school. Since school refusal is a common problem, every student will benefit from a reward system. Additionally, provide special jobs in rotation for students. Jobs like watering plants, handing out materials, writing the date on the board, or assisting in cleanup will motivate them.
There you have it! 12 school refusal tips for parents and teachers. This list will help you problem-solve, collaborate, and communicate with your children. And remember, tantrums to avoid school is a symptom of a greater problem. Therefore, provide support, empathy, and patience while determining the underlying cause.
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