School Avoidance

Warning Signs of School Refusal:

  • Frequent unexcused absences or tardiness
  • Absences on significant days (tests, speeches, or physical education class)
  • Frequent requests to go to the nurse's office despite no apparent sign of illness
  • Frequent requests to call home or to go home during the day
  • Major family event/trauma, sleep difficulties, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, or irritability
  • Difficulty or resistance to getting out of bed in the morning to go to school despite no apparent signs of illness

Strategies & Interventions for Parents:

  • Make school attendance mandatory unless your child has a fever or contagious illness. Avoid calling your child out unless absolutely necessary. Children cannot deal with their school issues unless they are present at school. A child's anxiety will increase the more school is avoided.
  • If a child refuses to attend school, contact school personnel regarding your child's feelings about school, even if it results in an unexcused absence. Allow the child to have consequences from school for unexpected absence.
  • Create an environment at home that fosters structure and consistency. Expectations should include rules, chores, privileges and limits. This will allow children to learn to structure themselves, as well as understand the rewards and consequences. Likewise, expectations should be clear regarding school attendance and homework, as well as privileges and consequences given for not meeting expectations. Based on research, structure, routine and consistency, work to alleviate anxiety in children.
  • Routines are essential for children with school anxiety/avoidance issues. A daily schedule that is followed consistently through the eyes both when the child is in school, as well as out of school is beneficial.
  • Encourage children to enroll in school extracurricular activities to feel more connected to school.
  • Provide positive feedback for successes made at school.
  • Seek support from school and/or external resources when your child first starts displaying symptoms of school anxiety/avoidance.
  • If patterns of academic failure are present, psychological and/or neuro-cognitive assessment and/or intervention may be needed due to possible learning disabilities or neuro-cognitive deficit issues that may be present.
  • Negative peer relations may result in school avoidance/anxiety issues. Contact the School Psychologist/Counselor if your child is struggling with peer relations, i.e. bullying, difficulty getting along with peers, etc. Therapeutic intervention at the school level may be needed.