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What You Can Do If Your Teen Refuses To Go To School

It is one thing to have a seven-year-old declare that they won’t go to school. Their refusal can be a little cute, especially if you can still easily pick them up and load them into the car. But when it is your teen refusing to go to school, things are a bit more serious.

If you have been struggling to get your troubled teen to school and are at your wit’s end, there are some things you can explore to see if it helps to get your teen back in school and on the right track again.

Find Out Why Your Teen Doesn’t Want To Go To School

Most teens don’t just wake up one day and think, “That’s it, no more school for me.” Usually, there is at least one pressing reason why your teen is refusing to go to school. However, your teenager may not have faced why they don’t want to go, and you will need to draw it out of them.

Below are some of the most common reasons why your teen may not want to go to school.

Being Bullied

It is not unusual for teens who are being bullied to want to skip going to school, as that is likely where your teen encounters their bully. The bullying can range from being isolated by their one-time friends to being openly taunted and bullied.

While being away from school doesn’t mean there is no bullying—after all, cyberbullying exists—if your teen doesn’t want to go to school due to being bullied, it may be tough to get them to admit it. Many teens are embarrassed that they are being bullied, so you will need to be patient and compassionate as you draw your teen out.

Failing Classes

Teens who are failing classes can feel defeated and uninterested in trying to dig themselves out of bad grades. Also, your teen may not know how to correct their failing grades.

Rather than face the shame of sitting in a class where they are doing poorly, some teens will throw tantrums and refuse to go to school. Others will simply pretend that they are going to school and simply cut class once you are out of sight to avoid facing the feelings of failure and shame.

Feels Targeted By Teachers

If your teen feels like one or more of their teachers are against them, it can make your teen uncooperative when it comes time to go to school. In many cases, there is no actual animosity from the teacher, but their teaching style is just more abrasive than your teen knows how to handle.

However, there are instances where teens are targeted and unfairly treated by their teachers. If your teen feels like the teacher is after them, be sure to carefully draw out examples of the behaviors your teen has seen that makes them believe their teacher is being unfair.

Learning Disability

For teens struggling with learning disabilities, the public school system can be incredibly frustrating, as the system is designed with neurotypical children in mind. In fact, even among neurotypical children, public schools can be restrictive learning environments.

It is essential that your teen has the support they need to feel successful in school with their learning disability. Some parents hesitate to have their children’s learning disabilities diagnosed, fearing that the label will halt their children’s abilities.

But, by delaying, it only withholds the help their teens need to achieve and not be held back by their learning disabilities.

Mental Illness

Managing mental illness at any age is a difficult process, and with the onset of puberty, teens can become more vulnerable to having mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and other disorders disrupt their lives. Teens struggling with these issues often deprioritize school, as it can be difficult to see beyond their illness.

Coordinate With School Administration

Coordination with your teen’s school administration is a critical aspect of helping your teen get over their refusal to go to school. For one thing, there is a mandatory number of days that teens need to attend school. If your teen has fallen short, Saturday school and potentially summer school will be needed to make up for the missing days.

Also, depending on why your teen is skipping school, you may need more direct intervention with the help of school administration. For instance, if your teen does have a learning disability, an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) can make a significant difference in your teen’s success. But, parents often have to work hard and prove to school administrators that an IEP is necessary.

Discuss Their Options If Your Teen Drops Out Of School

Some teens will insist that they can just drop out when you tell them that they need to go to school. Instead of just dismissing what your teen says, address their desire to drop out as legitimate.

A good starting place is the legal aspect of dropping out of school as a teen. In some states, teens can drop out of school at 16 without their parents’ approval, while in others, teens need to be 18 to drop out. Pointing this fact out to your teen can help dispel that it is easy to drop out of school.

If it is legal in your state for younger teens to drop out, help your teen see the long term consequences of not receiving a high school diploma. For one thing, it can keep your teen from getting a job that is above fast food or retail work. Even if your teen wants to join the military, all the branches prioritize applicants that have a high school diploma and not just a GED.

By being open and talking about your teen’s expressed desire to drop out, your teen can feel heard and more receptive to what you have to say, as you listened to them.

Look Into Private Individual Therapy

At the root of all of the reasons why your teen may be skipping school, there are emotional issues present. To effectively address these problems, therapy is an essential tool. By working with a licensed mental health professional who specializes in working with teens, your child can work through the underlying emotional reasons why they don’t want to go to school.

Along with addressing the emotional, a therapist can help your teen develop better coping mechanisms to deal with stress. Refusing to attend school is a type of maladaptive coping strategy, and your teen can learn better ones with the help of a good therapist.

Consider Alternative Schooling Options

We are no longer stuck in the one-room school model where children all have to learn together with the same style of teaching. Instead, if your teen struggles to learn at their current school, they may be better off with an alternative schooling option.

  1. Online public school – Online schooling isn’t just for higher education anymore. There are many online public school options, many of which can accommodate children from grades K-12. Depending on your state, this option may be available to your teen so that they don’t have to attend a physical school. However, it does require a good deal of discipline to keep up with classes from home.

  2. Residential treatment center – At a residential treatment center for troubled teens like Sundance Canyon Academy, we blend therapy and education for our students. In our accredited educational program, teens are able to catch up on failing classes and meet the schooling standard that is set for them and their peers with the help of licensed teachers and tutors. All of which takes place along with immersive therapy—individual, group, and family therapy.

  3. Homeschooling – Depending on where you live, homeschooling your child yourself may be an option you can explore. Homeschooling can be difficult, and some states may require you to submit a curriculum and updates on your child’s progress. Also, teaching your teen yourself can bring more conflict into your relationship.

  4. Private school/special interest school – If your teen is bored and unmotivated to attend their classes, a private school or special interest school that focuses on your teen’s interest can help motivate them. The problem with this option is that both private schools and special interest schools are competitive and can have waiting lists. If your teen has poor grades, they may not be accepted, or put as a low-priority on a waitlist.

If you are interested in our program and would like to see if your son is a good fit, please contact us. We will be happy to discuss what our program is all about at length, and help you find the right help to get your son back onto the right path.

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