School refusal

Triumph over School Refusal-1 to 1

Every child expresses concerns about going to school now and then. But when a child refuses to attend school everyday for many days, then it becomes important to identify the cause for their school refusal.

A teenager resisting to go to school due to psychological and emotional distress is not the same an occasional school refusal for good time.

Lately, I have started receiving many cases where the teenager is reluctant to go to school. The child would frequently express the discomfort in the school and would repeatedly express denial in going to school.

School refusal is problem where the child refuses times, the teenager would directly share with th parent the reasons of not going to school and at times would not share his/her feeling to the parents. Some children are not aware of the cause, but they just report that they don’t want to go.

The teenager also initially tries hard to cope with the difficult emotions, but a time comes when the teenager is no longer able to cope with the whole situation and then tends to withdraw. The parents would try their level best to send their child to school, by adapting a soft approach or by buying things for their child and mostly parents become angry and scold their child or threat the child to go to school.

Some children and adolescents would report that they don’t have peer group, are bullied in school, unhealthy home environment, body-image concerns, feelings of being judged and negatively evaluated by others, scoldings by teachers, not able to cope with academics, low self-confidence etc to go to school and feels emotionally disturb when asked to go. 

School refusal

Recently, I had a case where this girl 16 years old didn’t go to school for 12 days, as she had a panic attack. When I went into the history the home environment was unhealthy. There were frequent conflicts between parents and this adolescent girl has been witnessing all this since early childhood.

One of the days there was a major conflict at home and she didn’t go to school after that, as she suffered a panic attack. The parents approached the Clinical Psychologist after 12 days. The management was started the same day, parents consulted a Psychiatrist and a Psychotherapist. Family intervention was also started.

The Father also started taking treatment for aggression. The home environment was gradually improving, as the sessions of the parents were also taken. This adolescent girl Rita (name changed) was now talking to her friends over calls, while not going to school.

In one of the sessions she reported that the friends are not responding properly to her and so she fears that the friends will not talk to her properly when she goes to school. So now she was also bothered with acceptance by friends in the school, and so she missed her Mid term exams and for almost two months was suffering from anxiety.

Gradually through psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy she was prepared and she learned coping techniques to deal with challenging situations and now she is going to school, trying to build relationships with peers again and trying to complete her pending assignments Her School refusal improved with therapy.

How to identify school refusal:

  • ·       Duration of time a child has been avoiding school
  • ·       Level of distress and emotional pain a child feels when it comes to attending school
  • ·       If the child’s resistance is disrupting the teen’s and the family’s life.

Causes for school refusal by a teenager:

  • ·       Psychological or emotional problem
  • ·       Bullying
  • ·       Fear of being evaluated or judged by others
  • ·       Body image concerns
  • ·       Family conflicts at home
  • ·       Lack of peer group
  • ·       Feeling lack of support in school
  • ·       Difficult relationship with teachers
  • ·       Academic decline
  • ·       Feeling of rejection by partner
  • ·       Social anxiety disorder
  • ·       Poor stress coping

Steps to be taken when a teenager doesn’t want to go to school

  • The first step when the teenager refuses to go to school is to uncover the causal factors behind it.
  • As the child is at home it becomes essential for parents to have patience and more empathatic approach towards the child.
  • Listening and understanding the emotions of the child play an important role to combat school refusal.
  • Emotional reactions from parents can worsen the situation further.
  • The child may need time and space to open up and share difficult emotions.
  • The parents can reach out to the school counselor and discuss the concern. The school and parents need to work as a team.
  • At times, the problem of school refusal is so severe that an assessment and psychological intervention needs to be done by a mental health professional, A Clinical Psychologist and a Psychiatrist.


School refusal is a serious problem faced by teenagers. It is not just a phase that they are going through but it has a long-term impact on their life. School refusals can cause a lot of problems in a teenager’s life, including lack of success at school, poor grades, problems with peers, and low self-esteem.

School refusal can be caused by many reasons including mental disorders such as depression and ADHD, drug use, and abuse of alcohol or other drugs.

In most cases when a child refuses to go to school it is because the child has been rejected by one or more of his/her friends at school or within the family. The child may also have experienced bullying from other children who refuse to play with them anymore because they do not want to get hurt again by someone bigger than them like bullies do when they pick on kids smaller than themselves like pushing them down to the ground etcetera (Scully & Scully, 2009).

Psychologists believe psychotherapy is one of the best ways to treat school refusal because it helps children understand what happened in their lives so far which may have led them to refuse going back into class again after being bullied by another classmate (Scully & Scully, 2009).

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