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School Refusal (cont.)

Is It Possible to Prevent or Control School Refusal?

Parents or other caregivers can do several things to control school refusal before it becomes a routine, troublesome behavior.

  • Listening to the child's actual concerns and fears of going to school is important. Some of the reasons for refusing to attend school may include another child at school who is a bully, problems on the bus or carpool ride to school, or fears of inability to keep up with the other students in the classroom. These issues can be addressed only if they are known. On the other hand, making too big a deal of school refusal may promote the child's behavior to continue.
  • Firmly getting the child to school regularly and on time will help. Not prolonging the goodbyes can help as well. Sometimes it works best if someone else can take the child to school after the parent or caregiver says goodbye at home.
  • It truly helps to believe that the child will get over this problem. Discuss this issue with the child (the parent or caregiver needs to convince himself or herself of this before trying to convince the child).
  • The parent or caregiver should reassure the child that he or she will be there upon the child's return from school; this should be repeated over and over, if necessary. Let the child know that the parent or caregiver will be doing "boring stuff" at home during the school day. Always be on time to pick the child up from school if you provide transportation rather than a school bus.
  • Whenever events occur that could cause students to miss school (for example, traumatic events such as terrorism, school shootings, or other traumas), all attempts should be made to help students return promptly to school and to help them to feel safe at school.
  • Supportive counseling is often made available at school in these circumstances so as to minimize reinforcement of school-avoidant behaviors and to prevent secondary gain from school refusal and should be encouraged for any student who wishes to have it. If the child simply refuses to go to school, some parents have found that decreasing the reward for staying home helps. For example, do not allow video games or television, or find out what work is being done in the school and provide similar education at home, when possible. This is especially if the "illness" seems to disappear once the child is allowed to stay at home. Restriction from sports teams or other nonacademic pursuits can also be employed as a consequence.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/11/2016

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