Quick tips to cope with school refusal
- Quick tip 1Interrupt the “what if” cycle.Interrupt the “what if” cycle.
Talk about what kids are stuck on and the difference between “what if” and “what is.” For example, a child might say, “What if everybody in class is mean to me?” You can say, “What we do know is that two friends from last year are in your class.”
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.
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.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.