Top 9 Reasons for School Refusal

There are lots of reasons why kids refuse to go to school.
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When a child refuses to go to school, parents often experience a variety of emotions ranging from frustration to panic. Fear of truancy charges, frustration over a child’s seemingly oppositional behavior, and concern for a child’s future are all valid concerns.

School refusal is usually a symptom of an underlying problem. Here are the most common reasons kids refuse to go to school:

1. Depression

Children with depression often complain of physical health problems, like stomach aches and headaches.

They may simply say they don’t feel well enough to go to school. Sometimes, it takes a long time to rule out physical health problems and to gain a diagnosis of depression.

Teens with depression often appear more irritable than sad, which can cause their behavior to be viewed as oppositional. Parents may think they have a troubled teen on their hands, rather than one with a mental health problem. But children with depression simply lack the energy and motivation to go to school.

2. Separation Anxiety

Sometimes, a child’s refusal to go to school has less to do with school and more to do with the fear of being separated from a primary caregiver. Separation anxiety is normal among preschool-age children, but sometimes, it can extend into the school years. Treatment from a mental health professional can help reduce a child’s distress.

3. Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are often at the root of school refusal.

While some children feel frustrated and confused about why they struggle academically, others fear their peers will think they’re “stupid.” Unfortunately, learning disabilities often go undiagnosed for years. If you suspect your child may have a learning disability, educational testing can provide a clear picture of the problem.

4. Sleep Disorders

Children and teens with sleep disorders are often too exhausted to get out of bed in the morning. Despite a parent’s best efforts, a sleep-deprived child may not be able to wake up enough to get ready for school. Sleep disorders can range from sleep apnea to bedwetting, but they’re usually very treatable.

5. Social Phobia

For children with social phobia, interacting with peers, giving a presentation in front of the class, or eating in the cafeteria can be terrifying. Social phobia can get worse over time, and without appropriate treatment, kids may be at risk of ongoing mental health problems.

6. Panic Disorder

Panic attacks cause children’s anxiety to skyrocket out of the blue. Children with panic disorder are often terrified that a panic attack will occur while they’re at school, or in any other public place. They often only feel safe when they’re at home.

7. Poor Academic Performance

There are many reasons kids struggle academically and even gifted kids may have poor grades.

But, repeatedly failing classes can de-motivate students to the point that they despise school. If your child struggles academically, seek help from the school and appropriate professionals so you can support your child’s academic success.

8. Bullying

The shame and fear associated with bullying leads many children to avoid school altogether. While some kids fear for their lives, others can’t bear the humiliation and isolation. If your child is being bullied, notify the school administration and insist that steps be taken to protect your child.

9. Family Problems

Lots of different types of family problems can interfere with a child’s willingness to go to school. Family-related illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, or divorce are just a few examples. A child may feel it’s his job to protect a family member or he may have adult-like responsibilities that interfere with school.

Seek Help for School Refusal

If your child is refusing to go to school, get help right away. Speak to your child’s pediatrician, talk to school officials, and contact a mental health provider. Their assistance can help create a plan to help reduce your child’s distress about going to school.

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