It is not uncommon for teens to refuse to attend school at one time or another. In fact, 5 – 28% of children will exhibit some degree of school refusal behavior at one point in their lives. For some, it is a fleeting desire to miss the bus and play hooky with their friends. For others, there is a serious amount of anxiety resulting in their plotted decision to refuse attending school for the day, week or month.
There are many factors that come in to play with teens dealing with school refusal. While it can be frustrating to witness as a parent, it is often even more emotionally taxing for the teen involved. School refusal can affect the whole family. As a parent, you cannot stay home with your teenager every time they refuse to get on the bus. Siblings often don’t understand when one relative receives “special treatment,” and the teen refusing school is not setting a good example for any younger brothers or sisters present. school refusal

Reasons for School Refusal

Your son or daughter is not simply being stubborn; there is more going on then you often understand as a parent witnessing this behavior. So how do you move forward?

  • Assess why your teenager is refusing school. School refusal is a broad subject, and it is important to first understand what your teen is dealing with. Some students suffer from separation anxiety, others are victims of bullying in school and some teenagers would simply rather be doing something else. There are also specific phobias and disorders that may result in school refusal, such as learning disorders, social phobias or misplaced fear, which can sometimes present as physical symptoms such as headaches or upset stomachs. If the cause can be pinpointed to something chronic, such as bullying or classroom environment, it will be treated differently than if the cause is related to something emotional or psychological. Look at things like past family conflict, academic status and social standing in relation to your teen’s school refusal, and work with their teachers and school counselors to understand what could be resulting in their behavior.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Often teens refusing to attend school can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. This specific type of therapy is used to change negative thoughts your teen may be associating with school, and alter negative behaviors related to those feelings. For ultimate cognitive behavioral therapy benefits, seek treatment for your teen quickly — as soon as two weeks into your teen’s school refusal.
  • Gradually reintroduce classes. While not all schools will allow it, many cases of teens going through school refusal are overcome by gradually reintroducing them into a full school day. Work with your therapist or school-based counselor to first allow your teen to only attend their favorite class of the day, slowly adding in more classes to build back up to a full class schedule.
  • Establish daily routines. A teenager’s home-life is critical to their success in and out of school. Establish a routine with them in which school is an integral part of their day. Prepare for your own day while they simultaneously get ready for school, and establish specific homework times, dinner time and bedtime. Institute consequences for nonattendance, such as early bedtime or time spent alone in the evening. Enforce these consequences unless they have a valid excuse for absence, such as a fever, injuries, etc.

School refusal is a common behavior among teens at one point or another. As a parent, it is frustrating to try to assess the cause of this behavior and know what steps to take against it. You are not alone in this process. Keep an open communication with your teen, their teachers and school-based counselors, and together you will be able to push through this refusal and find an outcome that benefits all.

blueFire Wilderness can help

If your teen is struggling with school refusal issues or some other behavioral difficulty, blueFire Wilderness therapy could be a great solution.
As a wilderness therapy program for teens ages 11-17, blueFire Wilderness can offer the solutions your teen needs to find success.
For more information about blueFire Wilderness, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today!

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