School Refusal…Now What?

Does your child struggle with school refusal? Many kids and teens with a mental illness struggle with getting themselves to school. Lots of homes are full of yelling and/or cajoling each weekday morning. Parents are afraid for their child’s future if they do not receive an education and sometimes of the legal penalties involved in a child being considered truant. This is an enormous problem for all involved. The child doesn’t feel understood and the parent feels completely at a loss for how to make it better.

You also worry about whether it really is too much for them right now. And in some cases it really is. With all the bullying going on in schools, it is excruciatingly difficult for a child already struggling with depression or anxiety or any of the other mental illness’.

So how do you know? Unfortunately, I really don’t have an answer for that. This is something that you and your support team and their mental health team will have to discuss. Sometimes they do need a mental health day, and sometimes they need a push so that they can build their tolerance for managing uncomfortable situations. You will have to be the judge. Also if you truly believe that school is too much for them right now, there are other options. You can make it part of their IEP or 504 plans for partial days if all are in agreement that is. Or you can pull them and allow them to be homeschooled but make sure to involve them in extracurricular activities so they are building up that tolerance.

Some school districts have computer programs that the child can do from home and still be accredited through the school system and continue to receive their support services. These programs are often subpar so you may want to add in some additional learning experiences of your own. Or if you are comfortable you can purchase your own curriculum. Depending on your state, it may be as simple as putting in writing your intent to withdraw your child and begin homeschooling. But some states will require you to register and provide reports and testing throughout the year. You can check the laws of your state at


Now, what if you decide that your kid really does need to go to school? One of the struggles many of us have had is when our children no longer accept us as an authority figure. Many parents are unaware of the influence that they still have over their child even when they are being defiant and willing to take things further than we ever imagined. Many children will go to great lengths to get us to back off. I know these things were true for my family.  When you can no longer “make” them do it. What are you going to do when they walk out that door instead of taking their grounding? It is time to get creative and time to make a list of what is a necessity and what is a privilege. Sometimes we think of their phones as necessities but in our day we managed without them and do you really know where a defiant child is if they don’t want you too anyway? This one was hard for me but had I utilized it sooner, I believe it would have worked. What about clothes? Well, they have to have what is reasonable for the weather but think bare essentials and Goodwill. TV, WiFi the list goes on. They can do their report by staying after school or going to the library. You get the idea. Inconvenience yourself now to stop the power struggles in the future.

As always, you will find some resources on ideas to help your child get their education and help you regain some of your authority. Please take everything here with a grain of salt. Always use your own judgment because you know your child best. Have question or advice? Please comment below.

Transforming the Difficult Child




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