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Top tip Tuesday: When teens don't want to go to school

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Top tip Tuesday: When teens don't want to go to school

Star contributor

Top tip Tuesday: When teens don't want to go to school

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Getting teens out of bed and off to school in the morning can be a challenge from time to time, but what happens when your teen regularly asks to stay home or doesn't want to go to school?


Today's topic is about the times when teens don't want to go to school on a regular basis and what parents can do to address school refusal.


louis ck school GIF



What are your top tips for parents whose teens don't want to go to school?




ReachOut's top tips are:

1. Try to speak to your child about what’s been happening- sometimes not wanting to go to school can be a sign of something bigger going on in their lives



2. Let the school know what is going on- a great place to start is your child's teacher, year co-ordinator or principal.



For more information, you can check out ReachOut's article about how to help a teen who refuses to go to school


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Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: Top tip Tuesday: When teens don't want to go to school

Hello all,

I live in a part of the world where school has been in session for a few months already.  I'm sending care and support to those parents of the reachout community whose children are hesitating at the school doors or refusing school altogether. Two of our three children have been in that situation, but for very different reasons.  As @Jess1-RO  mentions, it is important to try and determine what is happening.   Initially, it was tempting for us to treat school refusal as a 'behavioural' issue (e.g.he just doesn't want to work hard) or an issue for 'discipline' (she's just being so stubborn) but, in our case, knowing the reasons why guided us to two completely different courses of action for each child.


Our son started to refuse school a few years ago (he was younger and not a teenager) and this is when we began to realize the degree to which he was experiencing anxiety.  We introduced him to a counsellor who worked on teaching him how to 'rank' his anxiety and taught him skills to calm himself. At the same time, we also drastically shifted our definition of success.  Success wasn't 'good grades on a report card'. At the beginning, the goal was to be *around* the school (not go in) while he tried to keep is anxiety below a 5 out of 10.  Then, the goal was to attend school but for only a short part of the day (even just lunch time).  And so on.  As the counsellor explained to us, achieving these successes/ small manageable goals allowed him to adopt the identity of being 'courageous'.    Touch wood, he is going to school happily now and, at this time, is a fairly happy go lucky kid. 


Our older daughter stopped going to school for a completely different reason.  Similar to what others have shared about their children on these boards, she was trying to cope with a significant level of harassment (in person, on social media), along with other fairly serious issues.  Our daughter--previously an active and engaged honor roll student--completely stopped going to classes. She wouldn't go to school because she was scared of being harassed, laughed at, talked about  and so on.  In consultation with the school administration, they allowed her to study in another area of the school (deemed to be a 'safer' environment). They allowed her to get from one part of the school to another during class time (so she could avoid crowds in the hallway). Teachers worked out accommodations and so on.

To be clear, this was far far from ideal. And, this was never going to be a long term solution (she is at a different school now). However, this arrangement allowed her to still see herself as attached to school.  She was excused from classes as her mental health at this time didn't allow for much studying/homework completion. But, she still saw herself as a student, and this kept her from feeling too divorced from the 'typical' life of a teen.


In both cases, we worked closely with the school administration and teachers.  And, in both cases, I was so very anxious and worried.  However, my smart smart friends reminded me that teens get delayed in their schooling all the time for all sorts of reasons. And, there are options and programs and various pathways for teens who get sidetracked. In fact, one of the friends who told me this had run away as a teen, involved herself with drugs, fell quite behind on her high school education but eventually caught up, finished post secondary, and went on to eventually become very successful and happy in her profession.  I hung on to this reminder that success (however that is defined) doesn't occur in a straight line. 


I'll be crossing fingers for all of our kids, hoping that they feel inspired and valued in their schooling. 









Star contributor

Re: Top tip Tuesday: When teens don't want to go to school

Hey @compassion 


Thanks so much for sharing. I think it's really good how you've reflected on the underlying reasons for your kid's school refusal and got the help you needed. It sounds like the school were very helpful and on board with improving your kid's well-being.


We really appreciate the advice you have shared and we believe it will be useful to many other users here. Heart