School Refusal: Less About Math, More About Crushing Expectations

Kids don’t exactly love going to school most of the time. Yes, it’s the place where they see their friends, but it’s also the place they have homework, rules, and have to sit quietly for hours. There’s a large difference between a student feigning sickness a couple of times to avoid class and the problem of school refusal, though.
School refusal is rooted in deeper issues. It’s not about homework and boring teachers, it’s about anxiety and fear–and it’s much more serious than normal adolescent rebellion.

What is school refusal and why does it happen?

For most adolescents who skip class or feign illness, it’s about issues like not wanting to sit through an hour and a half of English. But for kids suffering from school refusal, it’s more of a perfect storm.

The pressure of school drastically changes between elementary school and middle school. Sometimes this pressure is too demanding for a student and becomes overwhelming to the point of school refusal.

In elementary school, puberty hasn’t really kicked in yet, you’re learning the basics, and everything is much simpler. You have one teacher that knows you incredibly well. You have one or two classrooms and the same peers in it every day. Homework and scholastic expectations are fairly minimal–and your parents are willing to help you a large amount.

In middle school, everything changes. Puberty hits, brain development is firing, interest in the social world is blowing up–it’s a perfect storm for anxiety to develop. Especially if your child has unmet learning needs, school becomes harder than ever along with the social landscape shifting completely.

More expectations, more homework, more independence, more class changes, more teachers, more students–you can see how that could be distressing. Your small, elementary school bubble has suddenly popped and you’ve been dropped into a complex ocean of hormones and emotions.

This onslaught of new social and scholastic demands can cause school refusal to bud and grow. Students can feel crushed by the sudden expanding expectations of them, causing them to retreat back in fear.

How do I help?

As a parent, there’s a few things you can do to help combat school refusal:

  • Expose your child to school in small increments, helping them understand there’s nothing to fear
  • Talk with your child about their feelings and fears openly
  • Arrange an informal meeting with your child’s teacher away from the classroom
  • Emphasize the positive aspects of going to school, such as being with friends
  • Meet with the school counselor for extra support and direction
  • Encourage hobbies and interests, they help build self-confidence and reduce anxiety

The above tactics may be able to help, but if things don’t seem to be improving, it’s important to reach out to a professional for further guidance.

Asheville Academy is here for your family

Asheville Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for girls, ages 10-14. Our students commonly struggle with anxiety, depression, school refusal, ADHD, learning differences, and other behavioral or emotional challenges. We understand that transitioning into middle school can be stressful for the whole family, but Asheville Academy is here to help.

With the help of our licensed therapists, experienced teachers, caring staff, and expertly designed program, our students move closer to a healthier life. We use the best tactics and therapeutic methods in order to help our students thrive at Asheville Academy.

For more information about how we help with school refusal at Asheville Academy, call 800-264-8709 today.

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