School is Cool: Signs of School Refusal in Teens

School refusal in teens is often related to other issues such as anxiety and depression. School refusal can mean added stress to your child, you, and your family as a whole. The term “school refusal” is by no means referring to a child whining or complaining about how much they are dreading a long school day. It is much more intense than that. School refusal is known as “school phobia” and the product of separation anxiety. When anxiety or depression becomes severe enough it can lead to children missing days to weeks of school. In return, this can hinder their ability to develop important skills and progress academically like their peers.

Signs of School Refusal

Here are some signs you should not ignore in your child that may indicate school refusal related to underlying mental issues:

  • Frequent physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, chest pains, muscle pains, feeling dizzy or feeling exhausted
  • Regular trips to the school nurse for no real medical reason
  • Illnesses on test days or days when students need to present oral reports
  • Frequent requests to call home
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • Refusal to engage with peers or participate in social activities 

Help make school the happening place

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to ending school refusal in teens. You may notice small improvements over time, which is all you can ask for. Holiday breaks, summer, or actual illness can interrupt your success and cause minor setbacks. With these things, we have to adjust accordingly. Below are some tips for improving the school refusal situation:

  1. Assess: The most important step is to seek a comprehensive medical and psychological evaluation. Given that school refusal is generally related to an underlying anxiety or depressive disorder, it’s important to get to the root of the problem and start there.
  2. Work on relaxation: This is essential for children struggling with anxiety. Deep breathing, guided imagery, and mindfulness are all relaxation strategies that kids can practice at home and apply at school. This benefits them long-term, teaching them to manage and cope with anxiety and overwhelmed feelings.
  3. Prepare a plan: Partner with your child’s school and come up with a plan for them. Younger children might benefit from arriving early and helping the teacher in the classroom or helping at the front desk. The plan also includes contingencies to help the student during anxious moments throughout the day (i.e., using fidget toys, taking a brain break to color, a walk outside with a teacher’s aide, etc.). No child is alike, so experiment and find what works for yours.
  4. Set structure and routine. Anxious children benefit from predictable home routines. Avoid over-scheduling, as this can increase stress for anxious kids, and put specific morning and evening routines in place.
  5. Get the snooze on. Sleep deprivation can stimulate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Enforce a regular sleep schedule in your child’s life and stick to it.

Asheville Academy can help

Asheville Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for young girls ages 10-14 who struggle with life’s demands. These struggles can be indicated by school refusal, anxiety, aggression, and trust issues. This program uses a therapeutic model to address these issues and provide proper help and guidance to students. They will learn how to manage emotions, communicate effectively, and to follow rules and expectations. Students leave Asheville Academy feeling empowered, confident, and capable of handling and coping with life’s demands. We can help your family today!

Contact us at 800-264-8709