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School Refusal

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School Refusal

Hi everyone, we have a blended family which has its challenges but is mostly a happy home.

Our daughter who has gone from a public primary school has now started at a private high school. 

Her mum disliked the local public high school and 100% of her friends went to the public school. 

Thus far I could count on my hands and fingers the days we have had her at the new school. 

When she is at school and can get her there she seems to cope well, according to teachers. 

Getting her to school is the tough bit as getting her out of bed is impossible. 

She dislikes the school and ultimately in my opinion is sabotaging the opportunity and ultimately wants to go to the school close by which has her friends in it. 

We have had meetings with the school and year advisor and she basically is a mute in them meetings and doesn't communicate. 

My partner is adamant that she sticks it out at this school, but it is causing much distress at home and making my partner very anxious and upset. To the point at which she can't function and starts to talk about leaving and not being present. 

My thoughts seem to be that the simplest solution is to just pull her out of private and stick her in public but that logical choice seems almost absurd from my partner's perspective. 
My partner just wants her to have the best possible education as do I but not at the expense of both their mental health. 

When the child talks to me she basically says she hates the school, wants to go to the public one. 
When the child talks with her mum she shuts down. 

We have a long wait for professional help so I thought I would ask the audience for support. 

Can anyone share a thought on some approaches to getting her to school or share some experiences? 


Re: School Refusal

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Hi @DownunderDad and welcome to the forums

It sounds like your family is really going through a lot right now.

You seem like you have a lot of empathy and understanding for both your partner and daughter's perspectives, but it must also be tough seeing as those perspectives are so different.

I thought it was really insightful when you said that you value your daughter's education, but not at the expense of her mental health and your partner's.


I'm wondering whether your partner and daughter might be open to something like family counselling where they could talk things through with someone objective in the hope of finding a solution they can both accept? 

Has your daughter been able to talk through what it is she doesn't like about her school with you? 

If so, is there anything you think the school might be able to help with?


I'm not sure if it's helpful, but we have some information about school refusal on our website here, and Raising Children Network has this article about negotiating with teenagers in case you'd like to take a look. We also have a free one-to-one parent coaching service in case you or your partner would like to talk things through with them. 

Please keep us updated with how things go - we really hope the situation starts to improve for you all. 

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Re: School Refusal

When I talk with her, I get the main reason for not wanting to go to that school is not liking it there. 

She doesn't really elaborate or goes into detail only repeats that she just doesn't like it there. 
I really feel it is a sabotage attempt to get her way. 


Both of them have been to counselling and it usually involved her mum doing all the talking and the daughter not saying a single word or acknowledging any part of the conversation. 


We got her to go a half day yesterday and again this morning another flat out refusal. 

We have had meetings at the school with year advisors where again, both Mum and the teacher do all the talking and the daughter doesn't say boo. I feel the school are very helpful and understanding however they can only help once she is present. 
We are in the process of getting professional help however the waitlist is incredibly long. 

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Re: School Refusal

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Hi @DownunderDad I'm sorry to hear of all the struggles you are having trying to get her to go to school. It sounds like it must be a really stressful time for not only yourself but your family too.


You mentioned that both of them had been to Counselling but it usually involved her mum doing all of the talking. Do you think she may feel more comfortable speaking to the Counsellor by herself? I am wondering if maybe she would be more open to trying that at all.


It sounds like the school has been really helpful, which is really great to see. With so much going on though, I am also wondering how you are looking after yourself. If you would like to talk to someone about this, Parentline is a really great service that may be able to offer you some additional resources, at least while you are waiting for your appointment.


We are all here for you.

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Re: School Refusal

Bit of an update, 

last week we managed to get her to school 1 of the 5 days. 

We got our daughter to see a paediatric doctor, who has suggested that sleep is the factor causing the behavioural problem. He prescribed her slow-release melatonin before bed and tried to get the bedtime routine like clockwork. 

We had from Friday the nighttime routine adjusted and our daughter was prepared for school this morning. Well, until morning rolled around anyway. She flat out refused to go to school and was violent physically and mentally, towards her mother. The straw that broke the camel's back was today.

Her mum has yielded and given in to the daughter's demands to go to the alternate school. 
We still have to enrol her and also get uniforms, and talk with the school. So far that hasn't been a good experience as the school has said they don't even have enough teachers at the moment with covid. 

We still have counselling booked for 2 months away and I do hope that if she gets accepted into this school that she doesn't pull the same stunts and it all be for no good. 

It is a very sad and stressful time for us all. 
I am unsure whether who has won in this situation, or whether there have been any winners. I know Mum is very upset that her daughter isn't going to a better school, and her daughter can't see at this stage what a great opportunity she has turned down. 
I am wondering whether it is better to be a bright kid in an average school or an average kid in a bright school. 
I really feel like school time is what you make of it. It isn't much more than learning about things and fundamentals as it is prepping us for adult life. 

Anyway, I will pop back on later in the week and update you on how the transition went. 


Thanks for reading


Super frequent scribe

Re: School Refusal

Thanks for updating us @DownunderDad , it is really great to read how much you care about the wellbeing of both your partner and daughter. I'm sure both of them really appreciate your support, even if they may be feeling to overwhelmed to tell you.


I hope your daughter starting back at her old school helps her feel more capable of getting to school on a regular basis. And that seeing the counsellor in a couple of months helps her with the more overall things she's feeling and struggling with. 


I can only imagine how difficult it must be, being amongst this stress and tension between your partner and daughter, whilst still trying to be there for them both. How does all of this make you feel? I'm wondering what strategies you have in place to look after yourself during these times? Do you have other supports that you can talk to when things get too much?

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Re: School Refusal

Small update for those following along at home. 


We have had some progress with the new school, taking my daughter's application, and we have had two meetings now; they are currently assessing her needs and formulating a plan. 


The process seems drawn out, but I guess they want systems in place to ensure that the movement from one school to another doesn't fall on its face. 

We have no official date, but it could be in the next few days. 

To add insult to injury, her mum went down with covid-19, so didn't get to attend the meeting. 
This, for me, was a better outcome as my daughter spoke in the meeting and was able to communicate with the counsellors and teachers. Not sure whether this is a thing with Kids with behaviour/autistic issues that the parent takes over the role as communicator. But from my observation, this is what happens. Potentially both mother and child may need family counselling. 

What I have learnt from this. Being a parent is tough, and being a step-parent is equally tough. 
School refusal is significantly tougher in the current climate, particularly when your child doesn't tell you what is wrong or you don't listen well enough. 

In this case, the entire problem was stemmed from the child disconnecting from the relationships she made whilst at school. 

My partner wants or wants my daughter to also attend next year that school. 
I have listened to my daughter and her friends and know that she will not be attending that school irrespective of how good their facilities are. 

I hope reading this has helped some other parents facing a similar issue with their children. 


Re: School Refusal

@DownunderDad thanks so much for updating us on how things are going.

It sounds like you've made a lot of progress with your daughter's enrolment in her preferred school - I'm so glad the school are putting supports in place for her - hopefully that will help the change of schools go smoothly and be a positive experience. 


You seem like a really caring and attentive parent, and I think it takes a lot to be willing to go out on a limb to listen to and prioritise your daughter's needs in a situation like this.

It sounds like it's been really hard for you, but I can only imagine it must mean a lot to your daughter that you're willing to support her and that you have her back, regardless of whether you always agree with her or not. 


This must have been a very tough time for your partner, especially with getting COVID in the midst of everything. I hope she's recovering well. 

Do you and your partner have much support for yourselves?