News & Articles

Encouraging A School Resistant Child

By Hillary Hamilton, L.M.S.W. 

For many families, getting their child to go to school and stay there is a constant struggle. Attending school for some students feels never ending which is one reason why students become resistant. 

School refusal or resistance is when a student is upset about going to school and does not go or tries to come home throughout the day. According to “The Child Mind Institute”, “It’s important to understand that school refusal is not the same as playing hooky. It isn’t driven by the allure of having fun outside of school, but rather by an aversion to school itself.” School resistance usually means that the child is having trouble at school or having difficulty leaving the home or parent due to attachment, anxiety or depression. 

School resistance may present as different symptoms : crying, throwing tantrums, refusal, begging and pleading not to go, complaining of health issues that usually go away if they don’t go to school, anxiety symptoms, poor sleep and appetite as well as threats towards themselves or the parent. At times, it can seem as though the more you give in to a school resistant child, the more their dislike for going to school increases.

Although school refusal is not a psychiatric diagnosis -it is most commonly rooted in anxiety. Many people who struggle with significant anxiety search for control in their day to day lives. Similarly, when children are resistant to school they could be searching for control in an environment where they feel everyone else (parents, teachers, principal, etc.) is in control over their day. Giving your child a sense of control over appropriate areas of their school day could give them the confidence and independence they need to take ownership over their attendance. 

Some ways to help give your child a sense of control at school is to allow them to make choices and have a voice about different aspects of their day at school. For example, allowing your child to choose their clothing, lunch and snack options, and allowing “this vs. that” options can help them feel better about themselves.

If you have a child who is struggling with not wanting to go to school, first listen to them. Communicate with the school staff if there is a concern at school. If the problem persists, reach out to a licensed therapist who can use techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure treatment. Recognizing your child’s school refusal tendencies quickly is best as the longer a child misses school, the harder it is to get them back into their routine of going each day. 

If you feel like you aren’t sure how to best support your child, teen, young adult or yourself, Child and Family Solutions Center is here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get started with supportive services.