Skip to content

School refusal: What it means when kids won’t do schoolwork

By Amanda Morin

Related topics

This article is part of

Take N.O.T.E.

A simple, step-by-step tool to help you figure out if the struggles you’re seeing might be signs of a learning and thinking difference

As many as 1 in 4 kids show signs of school refusal at some point. They won’t go to school, whether it’s outside of the house or at home. And they won’t budge about doing schoolwork at all. 

Unlike with kids who are complaining or avoiding schoolwork, you can’t talk them into doing it. They may literally make themselves sick over it. Kids may be clingy, complain of stomachaches or headaches, and fall apart when it’s time to do schoolwork. You might also notice that kids:

  • Worry about school during downtime or on weekends

  • Have frequent tantrums or meltdowns about going to school or doing schoolwork

  • “Fight” morning routines so much that it gets in the way of other people’s schedules

True school refusal isn’t temporary. It’s an ongoing situation that’s often related to anxiety. It’s not just complaining about or avoiding work. Kids are so stressed and overwhelmed that refusing school is the only option.

Related topics

Keep in mind that distance learning because of the coronavirus pandemic has been stressful for many kids. If you’re seeing this kind of behavior, know that you’re not alone. And many kids are showing resilience that will make it easier when you return to a more typical routine. 

Dive deeper

Complaining, avoiding, or refusing?

Complaining: Kids who complain about schoolwork don’t want to do it because they don’t like it or want to do something else. But when you hold your ground, they’ll sit down and start the work.

Avoiding: Kids may avoid work if it’s hard for them. But with some planning, negotiation, and a little help, they’ll sit down and put in the effort.

Refusing: With kids who refuse school, you can’t get them to do any schoolwork at all. They have an extreme emotional reaction, often caused by anxiety and fear.

Find out how to manage school refusal in different situations.

How to tell if school refusal is temporary

Many kids are having  trouble focusing during distance learning . And lots of kids are worried, lonely, and anxious, which can make it harder to learn.

School refusal is a way of telling you that they’re not ready to learn right now. Some kids may stop refusing school once routines get back to normal. Others may gradually get more comfortable once they’re back at school and are confident that everyone is safe and healthy.

One of the most important things you can do is to create a safe space for kids to talk. Learn more about how to get kids to open up about school

Next steps

Try to set things up to make it as easy as possible for kids who are still learning from home. This can reduce some stress, especially for kids who struggle with focus.

If you’re a parent or caregiver, share what you’re seeing with teachers and ask if they’ve seen similar reactions. Talk with your child, too. Here are ways to start that conversation:

  • “Let’s talk about what’s happening when it’s time for you to go to school….”

  • “Let’s talk about what’s going to make you feel better about going to school.”

Keep in mind that school refusal is often tied to anxiety. Explore signs of anxiety in younger kids and older kids , and reach out to a health care provider if you have concerns.

Tell us what interests you

Tell us what interests you

Select the topics you want to learn more about

Share

Did you know we have a community app for parents?

Download Wunder on the App Store

Share School refusal: What it means when kids won’t do schoolwork

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom

Share School refusal: What it means when kids won’t do schoolwork

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom