When a child continually refuses to attend school, there is significant stress for the child, family and school community involved. Chronic school refusal can have devastating impacts – both short and long term – on a child’s social, emotional and academic development. Successfully addressing school refusal requires a collaborative, problem-solving approach between the family and school community.
There are many complex factors that may impact a child’s willingness to attend school. Some of the most common factors are listed below:
School refusal needs to be approached authoritatively by parents and carers, using a combination of empathy, understanding, firm boundaries and discipline. Be mindful of the fact that school refusal is most often a sign that your child is experiencing significant difficulties or stress, either at school or home. It is likely that your child may not currently have the skills or courage to be regularly attending school, but there is hope for change.
Firstly, it’s crucial to find out why your child is refusing to attend school. Here are some ways you can approach the topic with them:
Liaising with your child’s school is also an essential part of the process in re-engaging your child academically, and ensuring their attendance at school. There are a number of ways to approach the school, including:
If your child is complaining about feeling sick, make an appointment with your family GP. If your child has an underlying health problem, this may result in ongoing difficulty attending school. Seeking appropriate medical care for your child can alleviate illness and ensure they’re attending school again as soon as possible. If there is no apparent medical explanation for your child’s ill health, they may be experiencing significant stress. Feeling nauseous, headaches, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing may all be signs of anxiety or another underlying psycho-emotional concern. In this case, consider booking an appointment with a counsellor for your child, as issues involving anxiety, depression and stress respond well to counselling.
Helping your child to address any challenges they are facing – physical, social, emotional or psychological – is the key to successfully supporting your child’s ongoing attendance at school, and general wellbeing. If you would like to discuss your child’s school refusal with a counsellor or psychologist, please call Life Supports on 1300 735 030. We’re here to help.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.