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The Ultimate Guide To Consistent School Attendance: School Refusal Interventions That Work

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I’ve seen a noticeable increase in school refusal since the pandemic hit.

And I have to tell you, I’ve worked with several teens over the past couple of years who decided to stay in online school after the pandemic, and they really regret it now. Many of them have told me they wished their parents had pushed them a little harder to stick with in-person school, because they believe that this decision to opt out of in-person learning really contributed to them being “stuck” in life.

They still struggle socially and find it difficult to take the next steps in life, like going to college or landing a job. What this tells me is that, as much as our young people protest, they really rely on us not to fall for their tricks. They need us to guide them and push them when they need it. So while this article isn’t about online school vs. In-person school, the lesson from this patient story is that our young people rely on us to help them push through uncomfortable feelings in the moment so that they can meet long-term goals for themselves.

In today’s article, you’ll hear the term “school refusal” a lot, so I think I should define it for you. Psychologists and educators use this term to describe the symptomology of a child or teen who refuses to go to school on a regular basis or has problems consistently staying in school all day.

My goal for today’s article is to arm you with the knowledge and tools you need to tackle the complicated issue of school refusal. This is a problem that often has many layers—emotional, social, and academic—and can feel overwhelming to address. So I’m going to break it down step-by-step so you’re empowered to take action.

Understanding School Refusal: The What, Why, and How of This Modern Parenting Challenge.

Alright, before we dig deep into the strategies and coping mechanisms for school refusal, I think it’s essential to look at the broader landscape. I love grounding our discussions in facts and data because it helps us grasp the scale of what we’re dealing with, and also lends credence to our experiences. So let’s talk about the current statistics on school attendance, and trust me, some of these numbers might be an eye-opener for you.

A recent analysis by Attendance Works and Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center revealed some sobering trends.

First, let’s talk about the prevalence of chronic absence. In the 2021-22 school year, 2 out of 3 students attended schools with high or extreme levels of chronic absence. Now, when I say ‘chronic absence,’ I’m talking about students missing at least 10% of the school year. What does that really mean? Well, most states have a 180-day school year, so missing 10% of that time means missing 18 days of school. So in a 9-month school year, that’s missing 3 days per month, or almost once per week.

Are you surprised? Do you feel like your young person may be falling into the chronic absence category?

Now let’s zoom out a bit and look at overall chronic absence statistics. During that same 2021-22 school year, approximately 30% of American students were chronically absent. This was a school year that was, of course, greatly affected by the pandemic, but that doesn’t make this statistic any less concerning.

Now, you might be thinking, “The pandemic is over, and the 2022-23 has to be better, right?” Unfortunately, not by much. I was surprised to learn while doing the research for this podcast that the rate of chronic absence has only slightly declined to 28% from 30%. These challenges are persisting even as we move further away from the height of the pandemic.

And here’s another startling fact: The rate of chronic absence in elementary schools surged from just 7% in the pre-pandemic 2017-18 academic year to a staggering 38% in 2021-22. That’s more than a fivefold increase! And get this—the number of elementary schools experiencing extreme levels of chronic absence has even exceeded that of high schools.

So, what’s the take-home message from all these statistics? Chronic absence is not a fringe issue; it’s mainstream. It’s affecting a considerable number of students and schools, in elementary, middle, and high school. And although the world is starting to recover from the pandemic, the issue of chronic absence is far from resolved. These are not just numbers; they are a reflection of a generation of students at risk—academically, socially, and emotionally.

We need to take this issue seriously. If your young person is struggling with school attendance, understand that they’re part of a much larger picture that needs addressing. And while systemic solutions are essential, the change starts right at home, with you and me taking proactive steps to understand and tackle the problem head-on.

I hope these statistics serve as an anchor for today’s discussion. It underlines the urgency of addressing school refusal, and serves as a backdrop for the tips and strategies we’re about to dive into.

The Importance of Consistent Attendance

After diving into the stats around school refusal, it paints a compelling picture about how widespread this issue is. But let’s shift our focus a little. Knowing the problem is one thing; understanding why regular school attendance matters is another. Let’s now explore the significance of showing up.

First of all, there are many academic reasons for showing up consistently. Academics are the cornerstone of school, and here’s why being there regularly makes a world of difference. Every class is like a piece of a puzzle. If you miss one piece, the picture isn’t complete. Imagine watching your favorite TV series and missing an episode. The next one might not make much sense, right? The same goes for lessons; they often build on each other. And just like how practice helps us perfect that tricky yoga pose or get better at a video game, being in school helps young people improve their reading, writing, and math skills. Plus, it’s no secret – the more they’re present, the better they tend to do in their grades. And school isn’t just about books; it’s where they dive into team projects, chat in groups, and even do fun experiments. It’s like being part of a big team!

Second, school plays a vital role in a child’s social and emotional growth. It’s the first place outside of home where they learn about friendships, team spirit, and social norms. Remember the joy of being chosen for a team game or the thrill of shared secrets with best friends? Regular attendance allows them to foster these relationships, providing a safety net of peers who understand and support them. Emotionally, this consistent environment provides stability. Being part of school events, celebrating festivals, or simply being recognized by peers and teachers gives them a sense of belonging, contributing significantly to their emotional well-being.

Third, school teaches essential life skills. The daily ritual of waking up, getting dressed, and being on time? That’s discipline and punctuality right there. Working on a group project teaches teamwork, while waiting one’s turn during a discussion instills patience. Managing homework, juggling extracurriculars, and meeting deadlines? Hello, time management and prioritization! These are foundational skills that, once learned, stay for life, helping them not just in their academic journey but way beyond.

And the final reason why it’s important for young people to attend school regularly is because it fosters a sense of belonging. When they feel like they truly belong, everything becomes easier. This sense of belonging anchors them, reminding them that the learning they’re engaged in serves a greater purpose. It becomes their shield against lapses in motivation, certain mental health challenges, and even day-to-day reluctance to head to school. School is more than just a place of instruction; for our kids, it’s a haven of camaraderie and shared experiences. This feeling of being part of something bigger not only provides them with a comforting anchor but also empowers them. It’s akin to having a second home, where they don’t just accumulate knowledge but also flourish mentally and emotionally.

Identifying Signs of School Refusal: When Does Not Wanting To Go To School Cross The Line Into School Refusal

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of school attendance and how prevalent the issue of chronic absence is, let’s pivot a bit. We all know that kids and teens can sometimes resist going to school—it’s a part of growing up. But how can you tell when this behavior crosses the line from normal teenage reluctance to problematic school refusal?

To distinguish between the two, consider these factors:

  • Length of Time: How long has your teen been avoiding school? If it’s more than a few days, it’s likely worth digging deeper.
  • Level of Distress: How anxious or upset does the thought of attending school make your young person? If the level of emotional distress seems disproportionately high, this could be a red flag.
  • Strength of Resistance: How strong is your young person’s resistance to going to school? Are we talking about grumbling and complaining, or are they throwing full-blown tantrums and engaging in other disruptive behaviors?
  • Disruption to Life: Is this resistance affecting not just your young person but also the family’s daily life? Are morning routines turning into nightmares? Are you having to leave work to pick them up?

And remember, a child or teen might be experiencing school refusal symptoms even when they are physically in school. They might frequently be late due to anxiety, often ask to visit the nurse, or even call or text you multiple times throughout the school day. These are all signs that, even though they made it to the school building, they’re still struggling.

it’s crucial to be vigilant and attuned to the signs that differentiate normal adolescent behavior from problematic school refusal. While some resistance to school is typical and expected, persistent avoidance, high levels of distress, strong resistance, and disruptive impact on family life are signs that you might be dealing with something more serious. And if that’s the case, as we’ll discuss later in this episode, there are specific strategies to help you and your young person navigate these challenging waters.

The Psychology Behind School Refusal: Why Kids And Teens Develop School Refusal

Alright, now let’s dive a bit deeper into the complex reasons that lead some young people to develop problematic school refusal. Understanding the nuance behind why your teen or child is resisting school is absolutely essential. It provides you with the roadmap you need to offer targeted, effective help.

So what are some of the prevalent reasons young people refuse to go to school? I’m going to provide you with 10 reasons that I found in the research literature.

  1. General Anxiety or Social Anxiety: Anxiety is not just adult territory; it affects our young people too. According to the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, anxiety disorders in adolescents, including social anxiety, are strongly linked to school refusal.
  2. Depression: Much like anxiety, depression has a significant impact. A study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that depression could lead to school refusal, especially as children get older.
  3. Bullying: The National Bullying Prevention Center indicates that young people who are bullied are more likely to avoid school. It’s a defense mechanism to escape emotional or physical harm.
  4. Social Conflicts: Falling out with friends or feeling socially isolated can make school a very challenging environment.
  5. Fear of Failure: The academic pressure to succeed is very real, and the fear of not meeting those expectations can become overwhelming.
  6. Teacher Conflicts: Sometimes, it’s not peers but authority figures that make school unbearable. Perceived “meanness” from a teacher can discourage attendance.
  7. Family Issues: When things are tough at home, a young person may feel their presence is needed there to “fix” problems or offer emotional support.
  8. Academic Challenges: Difficulty with coursework, or feeling underprepared, can also be a significant factor.
  9. Sexual Harassment: An alarming but very real issue, sexual harassment can create an environment so hostile that a young person refuses to be part of it.
  10. Acute Stress or PTSD: Events like natural disasters, school shootings, or other traumatic experiences can also cause school refusal, sometimes diagnosed as acute stress disorder or PTSD.

Among all these reasons, anxiety consistently stands out as the most prevalent issue in my practice as well. It’s fascinating, and perhaps a bit disheartening, to see how deeply anxiety can affect our young people’s willingness and ability to attend school. So, why is anxiety such a major player in school refusal? Well, let’s think about it. School is a hotbed of stimuli: social interactions, academic expectations, extracurricular pressures, and even the simple act of being away from the safety of home can all serve as triggers. Each of these elements can provoke or exacerbate anxiety symptoms, making the school environment feel unbearable for those who are affected.

Now, here’s something surprising that you might not know: young people with anxiety often experience what psychologists call “anticipatory anxiety.” They’re not just anxious about what’s happening in the moment; they’re worried about what could happen in the future, and the imagination can be an unkind companion. A simple math test becomes a life-defining moment, a casual comment from a peer turns into a permanent social stain, and the vicious cycle of anxious thoughts continues. The more they ruminate on these potential stressors, the bigger and more intimidating they seem, making the prospect of going to school each day an overwhelming challenge.

Here’s the takeaway that I want you to remember: School refusal isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue. Understanding the specific factors affecting your young person is crucial for developing a tailored approach to get them back in the classroom, both physically and emotionally. And now that you have a better grasp of the underlying issues, let’s talk about how to arm yourself with effective strategies to tackle this complex problem.

10 School Refusal Interventions That Work

Alright, so let’s get to the actual strategies that you can begin using right away to improve your young person’s school attendance. Remember, this won’t be an overnight fix, but when you consistently use these strategies over the next several months, you’ll begin to see some big improvements. Now, to create this list of strategies, I dove into the research to see what the experts recommend AND I’ve also added some of the strategies have proven successful for families in my own private practice. So rest assured that these are strategies that you can really trust. Ok. So let’s begin transforming your parenting toolkit with 10 strategies that are both research-backed and real-world tested.

  1. Have An Honest And Open Conversation About The Situation: You should always start with this strategy first. Talk with your young person about why they don’t want to go to school. Use empathetic listening to really understand what’s bothering them. For example, if they mention they’re scared of a bully, don’t just brush it off—discuss concrete steps for reporting the issue and ensuring their safety. I’ll have more specific tips about how to have this conversation in the next section of this episode, but for now, understand that any intervention for school refusal starts with a conversation with your young person.

  2. Commit To Consistent Attendance Going Forward: Compassion is key, but it should walk hand-in-hand with consistency. The longer your young person avoids school, the more daunting the idea of returning becomes. So, while you should definitely sympathize with your young person’s concerns, it’s crucial to emphasize the non-negotiable nature of school attendance. Remind them that, by law, they are required to attend school, and this isn’t a rule you can bend. Establish a firm yet empathetic tone. The message should be clear: you understand their concerns but staying home is not the solution. Your steadfastness on this issue provides the external structure that will help them internalize the importance of consistently attending school, even when it feels challenging.
  3. Create an Efficient and Comforting Morning Routine: I can’t emphasize enough how pivotal a good morning routine is, especially for young people who are struggling with school refusal. You see, routines are more than just a way to get things done; they’re a source of comfort and predictability. In fact, research consistently shows that established routines can alleviate anxiety for people of all ages, but especially for young people navigating complex emotional landscapes. A well-thought-out morning routine creates a predictable, calming atmosphere that makes the process of going to school a lot less overwhelming. Keep it simple—don’t add unnecessary steps that could become stumbling blocks.
    For instance, lay out clothes the night before, have a quick but nutritious breakfast like a smoothie or oatmeal, don’t get drawn into arguments or complaints of not wanting to go to school, and then make your way to the car or bus stop with some light, upbeat music in the background. The idea is to make mornings smooth, calm, and predictable. This routine not only gives them structure but also offers pockets of joy they can look forward to.If you’re stumped on how to establish effective routines for your family, you might want to check out episode #42 where I dive deep into setting up smart family routines that work for you and your unique challenges.

  4. Engage School Staff: You’re not alone on this journey, and there’s no need to go it solo. Forming a team approach can amplify your efforts and make the transition back to school more seamless for your young person. Start by setting up a meeting with your child’s teacher or teen’s guidance counselor—they’re the ones who interact with your young person academically and can often provide insights that you might not be aware of.
    Also, don’t overlook the importance of consulting the school principal. They can help facilitate necessary adjustments in the school environment or policies that can make your young person feel more at ease. The school nurse can be another invaluable ally, especially for encouraging your young person to go back to class after complaining about a mild stomachache or headache. Share your strategy for getting your young person back to class and invite their input.
    Collaboration here is key: the more people who are aware of and invested in your young person’s situation, the more comprehensive and effective the support network will be. Enlisting the help of school staff not only makes them aware of the situation but also ropes them into a support system that your young person will inevitably feel, making the whole process of returning to school that much smoother.
  5. The 80% Rule: One of the essential life lessons we can teach our young people is that you don’t have to feel 100% to perform daily tasks and responsibilities. In fact, if you’re feeling at least 80% well, then you’re probably good to go. This concept encourages resilience and prepares them for the real world, where we often have to push through mild discomfort to meet our obligations.Now, you might be wondering, ‘What does 80% well actually mean?’ Here’s where the guidance from Harvard Health can be invaluable. According to their recommendations, your child should absolutely stay home if they experience:

    • A fever higher than 100.4 degrees
    • Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea
    • Intense pain that over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or aspirin can’t alleviate
    • Continuous coughing or noticeable changes in breathing pattern.

    If your young person’s symptoms don’t fall into any of these categories, then they’re likely within that 80% wellness range. For instance, if they wake up complaining of a mild headache or stomachache, you can administer over-the-counter medication and assure them that they’ll likely feel better as the day goes on and the medicine takes effect. This teaches them an invaluable life lesson: sometimes, the day improves as it unfolds, and we shouldn’t let minor discomforts derail our responsibilities.

  6. Consider A Step-wise Return: If your young person’s anxiety levels are particularly high, plunging back into a full day of school might be too overwhelming. In such cases, a step-wise, or gradual, return can be highly effective. Think of it as a phased reintroduction that allows your young person to acclimate to the school environment without the pressure of a full-day commitment right off the bat.

    Here’s how it could look in practice:

    • Week One: Start by simply driving your child or teen to the school premises without going in. Let them sit in the car, observe the environment, see other kids entering the school, and become accustomed to the idea of doing the morning routine and heading back to school. This is like a low-stakes dress rehearsal for what’s to come.
    • Week Two: Next, elevate the exposure slightly. Perhaps they attend school for just half a day or maybe only go in for their favorite classes. This partial engagement allows them to experience some of the elements that make school enjoyable, without the full scope of stressors.
    • Week Three: By this point, aim to have your young person back for a full day of school. If they’ve successfully managed the half days, a full day will just be the next logical step in their progression.

    There’s a growing body of evidence that supports the effectiveness of a gradual approach, especially for young people who’ve had long-standing issues with school refusal. It lessens the emotional and cognitive load, making the transition back to school more achievable and far less intimidating. This phased strategy works because it respects the young person’s emotional state while still moving toward the end goal of regular school attendance.

  7. Provide A Pediatrician or Therapist Note: A written note from your young person’s pediatrician or therapist can significantly ease the stress associated with returning to school. In my own practice, I frequently provide these notes, requesting specific accommodations tailored to the needs of the anxious student. For example, I may suggest that the student be permitted to step out of the classroom briefly to practice coping skills when feeling overwhelmed, or to listen to calming music during high-stress moments. I also often recommend extending deadlines for tests, projects, and homework, as anxiety can interfere with concentration and focus.

    These accommodations serve as a lifeline for your young person, ensuring they’re not being thrown back into a stressful environment without support. And in my experience, schools are generally very receptive to these kinds of medical recommendations, understanding their role in helping students succeed academically and emotionally.

  8. Be an Advocate: If the cause of your young person’s school refusal stems from specific issues like bullying or difficult relationships with teachers, it’s crucial that you step up as your young person’s advocate. Don’t hesitate to set up a meeting with relevant school personnel—this could include the teacher involved, the principal, and even the school counselor. Lay out the concerns in a clear, straightforward manner and actively seek solutions. The goal is to collaborate with the school to create a safer, more supportive environment for your young person.

    For example, if your young person is being bullied, you might request the school to keep an eye on certain problem areas, like the playground or the lunchroom, and perhaps even arrange for your young person to have a ‘buddy’ or a safe space to go to during free periods. If the issue is with a teacher, you might discuss ways to improve communication between the teacher and your child or teen, or potentially explore options for switching to a different class.

    Remember, schools generally want what’s best for all students, and they are usually more than willing to work with parents to solve problems. Your involvement as an advocate not only helps to address the immediate issue but also teaches your young person that they have a support system they can rely on.

  9. Create a Healing Environment When Your Young Person IS Sick: If your young person does stay home, it’s crucial to maintain an atmosphere that focuses on recovery rather than indulgence. The aim of the day should be clear: to get better, not to enjoy a ‘day off’ in the usual sense. This means no special snacks, no marathon video gaming sessions, and certainly no visitors.
    Instead, create an environment that encourages healing and recuperation. If your young person’s complaints are valid, then rest and relaxation in bed should be the order of the day—maybe some reading or another quiet, low-energy activity to help them recuperate. Importantly, let’s not forget about the schoolwork. Catching up on missed assignments should also be part of the plan, as falling behind can add another layer of stress and make returning to school even more daunting.
    The goal here is to strike a balance. You want home to be a safe and comforting space, but not so enticing that it becomes a more attractive option than school. By doing so, you reinforce the message that the purpose of staying home is to address any health issues—be they physical or emotional—so that your child can return to school re-energized, caught up, and ready to engage.
  10. Foster Connectedness: One significant aspect of overcoming school refusal that’s backed by research is the importance of your young person feeling connected to their school. But what does ‘feeling connected’ really mean? It’s that sense of belonging, the feeling that they’re not just a face in the crowd but a valued part of their educational community. This connection has been shown to be a crucial element for academic success and emotional well-being.
    So how can you help your young person establish this vital connection? One of the most effective ways is through extracurricular activities and social engagements outside the home. For instance, if your young person loves animals, perhaps they can join an animal welfare club at school. If they’re into sports, a school team can offer camaraderie and a sense of achievement. Even academic clubs like a science club or a debate team can foster this connection. The goal here is to help them find their ‘tribe’ within the larger school community.
    Engaging in these activities will not only ease the stress associated with the academic aspects of school but will also provide them with a network of support. The friendships and mentor relationships formed in these settings can become additional lifelines for a child struggling with the idea of school attendance. The more positive associations they have with school, the less room there is for anxiety and fear.

    So there you have it: 10 actionable strategies that you can begin using right now to help your young person get back to school and making progress with their goals. I hope you can see that it’s crucial to remember the importance of a balanced approach to overcoming school refusal. Act swiftly, yet compassionately. The objective here is not to ignore or gloss over your young person’s fears and anxieties, but to empower them to face and overcome these challenges. It’s all about understanding the ‘why’ behind their reluctance, and then implementing the ‘what’—actionable strategies to guide them back into the classroom environment where they can learn and grow.

How To Talk To Your Child or Teen About Their Reluctance To Go To School (3 Examples)

I know that examples are helpful for you, so I want to now give you three examples – one for an elementary, middle, and high schooler. Each example will show you a possible way to have a conversation about school refusal. I’ll also highlight one strategy that we just talked about.

But before we get into the examples, let’s talk mindset—because it really sets the stage for any conversation. Remember that the key here is to come into the chat with an open mind and a judgment-free attitude. Trust me, kids and teens can sense if you’re judging them, and that will shut down the conversation fast. So keep an open heart and an open mind as you navigate these discussions.

Example #1. Let’s start with an example for parents of elementary school kids. Picture this: your 8-year-old wakes up and says, ‘I don’t feel like going to school today.’

Now, your initial thought might be, ‘My child doesn’t take school seriously. I’m ‘disappointed in them.’ But hold on, don’t jump to conclusions so quickly. Remember, most young people usually have a reason for what they’re feeling, even if they can’t articulate it.

So what strategy would work for this scenario? Well, the 80% Rule is particularly useful when an elementary-aged child suddenly says they don’t want to go to school, especially if this hasn’t been an ongoing issue previously. Remember that the idea behind the 80% Rule is that you don’t have to feel completely ready or be at your best to take a positive step, like going to school. Often, the day improves as it progresses. The key takeaway is to establish that attending school is important, even if you’re not feeling 100% up for it.

So, how would this conversation go?

You might say something like this: ‘I hear you saying you don’t want to go to school, and I wonder if something’s bothering you there. You know, you don’t always have to feel 100% ready for something to give it a try. Sometimes we’re at 80% and that’s okay. Going to school even when you don’t feel perfect is a life lesson we all learn. Once you’re there and the day gets started, you might find you feel better. And after school, we can talk more about what’s making mornings tough for you. How does that sound?’

In this conversation, you’re acknowledging your young child’s feelings, but you’re also encouraging them to face the day using the 80% Rule.

Example #2. Let’s move on to a scenario for parents of middle school kids. Imagine this situation: Your 12-year-old groggily mentions in the morning, “I’m too tired to go.”

Now, your immediate thought might be, “You get enough sleep. This is just an excuse. It’s so trivial; just get up and go.” But wait, before you make any snap judgments, take a moment. Recognize that middle school can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, especially if they’re encountering academic or social challenges.

So, which strategy can be employed here? The best approach for such a scenario is the “Efficient and Comforting Morning Routine” strategy. The logic behind this tactic is that having a consistent and calming morning routine can greatly reduce the effort needed to start the day, even when they’re feeling tired. The smoother the morning, the easier it becomes for your young person to navigate through their weariness and get on with their day.

So how should this dialogue unfold?

You could say something like: “Hey, I understand that you’re feeling tired, and sometimes school can be overwhelming. How about we set up a morning routine that helps you kickstart the day with ease? We could include some of your favorite breakfasts and maybe even a quick, energizing activity. Having a regular routine means you can almost go through the motions without putting in too much thought, especially on days when you’re not feeling your best. And remember, once you get to school and see your friends, things might just take a turn for the better. After school today, we can chat about what’s making mornings so challenging for you.”

In this chat, you’re not only acknowledging your middle schooler’s feelings, but you’re also emphasizing the importance of school. By suggesting a morning routine, you’re showing them that problem-solving and adaptability are essential skills to possess. It’s about making school a priority while also providing a practical solution to help them face the morning with more confidence and ease.

Example #3. Let’s dive into a situation tailored for parents with teens in high school. Picture this scenario: Your 16-year-old, who has a history of struggling with anxiety leading to a SUPER inconsistent school attendance, says, “I just can’t handle going to school. It’s too much.”

Your initial thought might be to immediately comfort them or perhaps to be frustrated thinking, “We’ve been through this before.” However, it’s vital at this juncture to acknowledge their feelings while emphasizing the non-negotiable importance of consistent school attendance.

So, which strategy would be effective in this situation? The “Step-Wise Return” strategy comes into play here. This approach involves reintroducing your teen to school gradually, ensuring they don’t feel overwhelmed, yet consistently emphasizing the importance of their education. Collaborating with their therapist and school officials ensures a comprehensive plan that takes into account their mental health and academic requirements.

How should you navigate this dialogue?

You might begin by saying: “I understand that attending school feels overwhelming for you, and I genuinely empathize with what you’re going through. That’s why, after consulting with your therapist and school, we’ve come up with the ‘Step-Wise Return’ plan. The idea is to slowly reintroduce you to the school environment. For instance, the first week might involve you attending just a couple of half-days. And then, as you get more comfortable, we’ll progressively increase that. The school’s guidance counselor and principal are on board with this plan, ensuring you have ample support.”

Your teen might counter with, “It still sounds like too much pressure.”

To which you could respond, “I hear you, and we’re going to work through this together. While it might be challenging initially, remember, the end goal is regular school attendance. We’ll adjust the plan if needed, ensuring you’re not overwhelmed. It’s about taking one step at a time, but always moving forward.”

Through this conversation, you’re not only acknowledging your teen’s genuine anxieties but also reinforcing the importance of school. Introducing the “Step-Wise Return” strategy provides them with a tangible, structured path forward, showing them that with support, they can overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

Take Home Message

Alright, let’s wrap up today’s article on how to help a young person who does not want to go to school, otherwise known as school refusal.

Here’s the take-home message: Remember, school refusal is more prevalent than many of us realize. However, with the right strategies and interventions, this issue can be resolved. You’ve got to first begin by initiating that challenging yet crucial conversation with your young person. Dive deep into understanding their reasons for school refusal, and then, based on those insights, tailor your intervention approach.

Now, a gentle reminder for all you amazing parents out there: Transforming any behavioral issue requires two pivotal components – 1) consistent parenting strategies and, 2) most importantly, time. Both time and consistency will be your best friends here. So, on those days when progress feels slow, take a deep breath and remind yourself of this fact.

Now, remember to download today’s episode guide called “Sunrise Success: Your Guide to Stress-Free School Mornings.” This guide will transform your mornings from chaotic scrambles to serene starts.  It will take your mornings from chaotic scrambles to serene starts, ensuring every sunrise sets the stage for a fruitful day ahead.


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