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

By Amanda Morin

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.

If your child is refusing school, remember that you’re not alone. And know that there are things you can do to help your child cope.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.