Updated: Nov 3
What do you do when your child just won't go to school?
This is a complicated situation because the reason the child isn't going to school is different in every case. In fact, usually there are multiple reasons, and each one needs to be identified and addressed separately. The number one mistake I see parents make with school refusal is looking for one solution to solve multiple problems.
Getting a resistant child to attend school will take a little while, but it CAN be done.
This is going to be a blog series because there too many steps involved for one post. Stick with me and work through these one by one. You will be tempted to skip some of the steps (especially this first one) trying to rush to a resolution. That will only delay your success.
Step 1 -- Work through your own feelings
When we have a child refusing to go to school, it can feel huge -- like the world is ending. We tend to catastrophize: My child won't end up graduating or going to college. My child will spend his life in a dead-end job or on drugs. My child is ruining his life.
I get it, I do. But thinking these things doesn't help, and they're not true. In fact, continuing to spin on these disaster scenarios makes them more likely to come true because when we are stressed and anxious, we can't access the patient, analytical parts of our brain that are the best at problem solving.
To get some traction, walk it back to the present. Ground yourself in the absolute facts.
My child isn't going to school right now.
He's safe right now.
I'm safe right now.
Right now, everything is ok.
My child is doing his best
I am doing my best.
Together, we're going to find solutions to help him be successful.
Working through these issues is going to set him up for long-term success.
Going through hard things will help him develop compassion and help him be a more resilient, empathetic person.
Every time you feel a wave of negative emotion coming up for you, give your emotion a name. "This is anxiety. Right now I'm feeling anxious." Then notice the ground beneath your feet, supporting you.
Have confidence in your child and in your ability to help him work through the issues standing in his way. It will take time, but as we calmly identify one problem at a time, we can find the best solutions.
Once you are calm and grounded, you are in the ideal place to start working on:
Step 2: Identify one thing your child is struggling with that is keeping him from going to school