How many times have you heard your child say, “I don’t want to go to school”? I’m sure this is a phrase that, as a parent, you have heard multiple times. It’s incredibly normal for a teenager to complain about going to school every now and then, sometimes even resisting going to school entirely. But when there begins to be a pattern that your teen is refusing to attend school every day, for days on end, there is likely something more serious going on. A teenager refusing to attend school due to distress and/or anxiety is not the same as truancy or your child “playing
Teenagers don’t refuse to go to school repeatedly because they want to go out during the day and have fun outside of school. It is more likely that they are experiencing a distaste to school entirely. There could have been part or current events and interactions at school that have been emotionally impactful or traumatic. Instead of beating the wall of resistance to force your teen to attend school, it is more beneficial to seek to understand why your teen doesn’t want to attend school. Once you have that information you can support them in addressing the underlying issue.
Common Reasons a Teen Refuses to Attend School
There are several reasons why a teen may be refusing to go to school and insist on staying home. Some of the most common reasons we see are:
• Conflicting relationships with friends or lack of supportive friendships
• Teen dating violence or toxic romantic relationship
• Family problems at home
• Academic challenges or struggling to have a collaborative relationship with teachers
• Sexual harassment from another student
• Acute stress disorder or PTSD due to an incident at school
• Social anxiety disorder
One of the most common reasons that teens refuse to attend school is due to anxiety disorders. School refusal and anxiety are closely linked. Research has shown that 40% of high school students are struggling with anxiety symptoms today. Teenagers that are struggling with anxiety disorders may have feelings of tension, worry, and fear. They could be fearful of getting sick or experiencing an anxiety attack during school. When teens experience anxiety, their relationships can be affected due to withdrawal and nerves around others.
Another cause of anxiety for teens can be fear of being rejected by peers or fear of experiencing conflicts with peers. If your teen has ever experienced rejection or perceived rejection by their peers, they may refuse to go to school to avoid the chance of experiencing rejection. If a close relationship cut ties, a teenager may feel isolated and alone. Hence, they try to avoid school as much as possible.
As teenagers are experiencing a heightened level of anxiety today leading to school refusal, it’s important as a parent to be curious and seek to understand your teen. Providing your teen with the support and understanding will be essential to them feeling safe to share their concerns. We are also here to support and work with your teen to increase their coping skills and process their fears in order to prioritize their education.