School Refusal

School refusal can be a common concern that affects children of all ages. It is defined by a child’s repeated refusal to go into school. There are many reasons why a child may refuse to go into school These include but are not limited to anxiety, bullying, learning difficulties, and social concerns.

If your child is currently struggling with school refusal, it is important to be patient and understanding. It is also advisable to seek professional help if your child’s refusal to go to school is causing significant disruption to their daily life.

Here are some top tips for helping children who are struggling with school refusal:

  • Talk to your child about their feelings. Let them know that it is okay to feel anxious or scared about school. Listen to their concerns and try to understand what is causing their anxiety
  • Create a safe and supportive environment at home. Make sure your child feels loved, accepted and heard. Avoid arguing or fighting with them about school
  • Work in collaboration with the school to develop a plan for your child. This plan may include in school counselling, a limited timetable, support when arriving to school in the mornings, academic support, or social skills training classes
  • Seek professional help if needed. A therapist can help your child to manage their anxiety and develop healthy coping skills

Here are some additional tips that you can try:

  • Help your child by writing down things they are looking forward to at school the next day. This could be a favourite subject, a teacher or a friend
  • Help your child to develop a positive morning routine. This could include getting dressed, eating a healthy breakfast, and mindfulness
  • Set small, achievable goals for your child. For example, you could start by setting a goal of getting your child to go to school for one hour per day
  • Praise your child for their efforts. Even if your child only goes to school for a short period of time, let them know that you are proud of them
  • Avoid forcing your child to go to school. This will only make their anxiety worse

It is important to remember that school refusal is a complex problem. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, by following these tips, you can help your child to overcome their concerns and return to school

Additional tips:

  • Encourage your child to stay connected with their friends and classmates. This could involve inviting friends over for a playdate, participating in hobbies or activities together, or using social media
  • Help your child to develop healthy coping mechanisms. This could include relaxation techniques, mindfulness, exercise, or spending time in nature or with a pet
  • Be patient and supportive. It may take time for your child to overcome their school refusal

References: 

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/feb/06/you-cant-fix-school-refusal-with-tough-love-but-these-steps-might-help

National University Hospital: https://www.nuh.com.sg/our-services/Specialties/Psychological-Medicine/PublishingImages/Pages/IPMDA/School%20Refusal.pdf

Written by:
Renee Butler
Counsellor
SACAC Counselling

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