School Avoidance (Part Two)

Stacy Hladek, Family Resource Coordinator | Families First

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we have had an increase in calls to our Family Support Line related to children refusing to go to school.  If you did not read the previous blog, it would be a good place to start regarding general information on heading off school avoidance in children. 

What is school avoidance?  The website, Human Illnesses, defined school avoidance as “when children and teens repeatedly stay home from school or are repeatedly sent home from school, because of emotional problems or because of aches and pains that are caused by emotions or stress and not by medical illness”.  School avoidance, also referred to as school phobia or school refusal, occurs in approximately 2-5% of school age children.  It is most common in 5-6 year olds and 10-11 year olds. 

Typical behaviors for a child or teen that has school avoidance is for them to come up with reasons not to go to school, to complain of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to go to school, or to make repeated visits to the school nurse or counselor once at school, with similar physical complaints. 

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School Avoidance

Stacy Hladek, Family Resource Coordinator | Families First

We have had three calls to our Family Support Line in the last month related to children refusing to go to school. It occurred to me that this might be a good topic to address in the blog. In the twenty years that I have been working with children and families, I have noticed that school avoidance seems to rise around the holidays. I believe there are a few reasons for the peak in school avoidance around this time of year. The first is that the semester is finishing up and the stress increase due to projects and tests that are due. Midterms and finals can be very stressful for students of all ages. The holidays also tend to bring out stress in most adults and children pick up on our stress levels. Another reason that school avoidance seems to be up this time of year is due to the school breaks. It can be especially difficult for a student that has anxiety around school to return after they have had a break for the holidays.

Be proactive and implement some of the following strategies to try to head off the possibility that your child will develop school avoidance over the holidays:

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