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School Refusal


School Refusal

My 13 year old sister is refusing to go to school. Every morning she will refuse to get up and if she does get up and get ready then when she’s about to get dropped off she will refuse to get out of the car. Every person in my family has tried talking to her to figure out what is happening... she will not say anything to anyone and is also refusing to go to a GP or counselling. She has had all electronics taken off her. We have even spoken to her friends and they don’t know what’s happening either.
Her school knows what is going on and we have set up a plan, they are very understanding and helpful with the situation but we cannot do anything until she is willing to help herself. She is completely normal at all times after she knows she doesn’t have to go to school. There has been no major changes to her life that we know of. Does anyone have any advice on what to do?

Re: School Refusal

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Hey @Worriedsister96 

Thanks so much for this post, this is a really common issue that we chat about a lot on our forums, you and your family definitely aren't alone in experiencing this Heart (I'll just link to our other threads on this issue in case you want to check them out) School refusal can be tricky to get on top of, good on you for reaching out for some support, your sister is lucky she has you looking out for her.

We have a content piece which I'll link here about school refusal. It has a some great tips in it including working with the school to come up with a transitional plan (i.e. reduced school hours, reduced participation in certain activities), do you think this is something that could work for your sister?

I understand she isn't keen to see a GP or counsellor, has she spoken about why this is? Do you think she might be open to other supports, for example an online support like eheadspace or kids helpline? She also is very welcome to join our youth forum where she can chat to other young people who might be experiencing the same sort of things she is. 

I hope some of this information is helpful and that some of our other forum members are able to jump on with some ideas too Heart

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Re: School Refusal

The adage says there is no smoke without fire . There is likely  an object of offence that is making the girl refusing school. Taking her electronics off her does not help I believe . How about changing her school?  I think the best time to ask her questions about  her not liking school is when she is very happy. Dont make things too hard for her, Dialogue with her, show more and affection,  giver space maybe she will open up.

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Re: School Refusal

My daughter had school refusal from aged 12.  Very similar to your sister.  It was a massive effort to get ther out of bed.  It was then a massive effort to get her to the car and then she would refuse to get out of the car.

My daughter was frightened off high school by a speach by a teacher telling her how much work high school would be and how important it was.  This was designed to shock kids into taking it seriously but it tipped my daughter's anxiety over the edge.

Your sister sees your home as a safe space - as she should.  And she probably sees school as a terrifying place.  My daughters anxiety would build up and up during the morning and she would be a wreck by the time she was outside school.  She would sometimes sit in the car for almost an hour whilst various people tried to coax her out of the car.  Eventually there was no option but to give up and her relief was enormous.

I think this made school worse as her heightened anxiety was completely associated with going to school.

We ended up giving her 1 minute to get out of the car and then we would take her home with no fault. She wanted to go to school but simply couldnt do it.  When we did this she would always say she would try harder tomorrow.

When she had an hour of people talking at her she couldnt even think about school with out being sick.

My advice is take it easy.  Encourage her to want to go but dont push too hard.  And if she does not go dont use any language that implies it is her fault.


Re: School Refusal



School refusal is a really tough issue that we see a lot of on the forum. Thanks for sharing with us how you and your daughter got through this together.


I wonder if that teacher had any idea about the impact of what they said when they were talking about how much more intense high school is. I love that you spoke about seeing home as a safe space, I think it's really important to recognise that. And also that you didn't push her, I can imagine she really appreciated being able to do things more incrementally and at her own pace.

I'd love to know, if you're comfortable sharing, if the school was able to offer any support that you and your family found helpful?

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