How Do You Manage School Avoidance?
School avoidance is not a mental health disorder, but rather it presents as a symptom experienced by a young person. School avoidance, also known as school refusal and school phobia, is defined by Stanford Children’s Hospital as “a term used to describe the signs or anxiety a school-aged child has and his or her refusal to go to school.” School avoidance is not uncommon, and data suggests that school refusal occurs among 2 to 4% of all children, from early childhood through high school. To help a young person manage school avoidance, it is essential to be able to recognize its signs and symptoms. Harvard Medical School provides the following examples of commonly exhibited behaviors in school avoidant teens:
- Refusing to get dressed in the morning
- Purposefully missing the bus to school
- Constant complaints of different physical ailments
- Neglecting to do homework
- Weight fluctuation
- Social isolation
The symptoms surrounding a teen’s school avoidance are often only present on school days and are typically absent on the weekends. It is important to note that most adolescents who experience school avoidance are unable to articulate their discomfort and do not actually know why they feel sick.
There are several natural consequences of an adolescent repeatedly missing schools such as falling behind academically, diminished self-confidence, social isolation, friendship difficulties, and more. There is no universally effective method to manage school avoidance as every young person is unique. Consider the following suggestions to help your teenager navigate and overcome his or her school avoidance:
- Encourage an open line of communication: try to help your teenager identify the cause or causes of his or her school avoidance. Perhaps naming and addressing the underlying cause can help minimize the fear surrounding the attending school.
- Be kind, but firm: it is important for your child to understand that attending school is obligatory.
- Offer unconditional support and love to your teen: although it can be infuriating to deal with a school-avoidant child, it is advantageous to bear in mind that they are experiencing severe internal turmoil.
- Routine is key: developing a morning routine and adhering to it on both school days and weekends can help to clarify expectations.
Although the above tips may be helpful for some young people, others may require additional support. Recognize your own limitations and be mindful of the fact your teenager benefits from professional guidance. There is a vast network of highly qualified mental health providers that have expert knowledge and extensive experience in treating adolescents struggling with school avoidance.
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