Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Welcome to our new blogging series which highlights parent concerns that are commonly brought to school social workers, and offers some tips for effective management of each issue.  Although, just like every child, every situation is unique -- there are approaches to some problems that are tried and true! We hope you find these entries to be helpful...

January, 2016
What do I do if my child does not want to come to school?

Students who consistently try to avoid going to school (either by putting up a big fuss, feigning illness, or any other delaying tactic) are demonstrating school refusal.  Elementary school students may dawdle in the morning, cry and cling to their parent or caregiver, or even actively refuse to move when confronted with entering the school.  Students may exhibit school refusal for many reasons, but the most common is separation anxiety – they do not want to leave the parent or caregiver. 

Students exhibiting school refusal must understand that you as the parent consider school attendance NON-NEGOTIABLE.  If you allow them to stay home one day because they are making a big fuss about going in, they will remember that and put up an even bigger fuss next time hoping it will work again.  This will become very tiresome and frustrating for you!

Here are some important steps to take if your child is exhibiting school refusal:

1. Talk to your child.  

Ask them why they do not want to go to school.  See if you can help them work out a solution to any problems they are facing at school.  If it is a separation anxiety problem, sending your child to school with a special item to remember you by can be helpful (a photo, perhaps).  Work out ways to spend quality time together at home.


Unless your child is sick, we highly recommend being very matter-of-fact about   school attendance and getting them to school on time every day.  Remember, you are the parent and you get to make the rules!  Help your child understand that this is a non-negotiable rule and the law requires they come to school unless they are sick. 

3. Talk to your child’s teacher.

The teacher knows a lot about what is going on in the classroom.  He or she may have some helpful insight.  In addition, the teacher can help with the morning transition and provide lots of positive reinforcement for showing up to school on time.  Some teachers allow students to come in a bit early if that helps with the transition, but not all teachers can offer this.

4. Better late than never!

If you have a hard morning with your child and you’re running late (even by hours!), we still want to see that child in school!  Let your child know that their teacher will be happy to see them, even if they’re late.

If over a sustained period of time your child is being physical (kicking, punching, pushing, etc.) or actively refusing to move, you need professional assistance.  At school, contact the child's teacher and the social worker.  Seeing an outside therapist could also be helpful, and there are programs to assist students exhibiting severe school refusal.

(Adapted from

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