Why is my child refusing to go to school and how do I deal with it?

If your child is refusing to go to school, this is known as ‘school refusal’ or ‘school phobia’. When children refuse to go to school, it can often be because of extreme fear and anxious feelings.

Your child might be feeling overwhelmed with anxious feelings about schoolwork, relationships with friends or teachers.

As children have been off school because of the coronavirus lockdown, school refusal might be more common this term.

It can be very hard for you to get your child to go to school or stay in school. We’ve got some tips to help you cope with school refusal.

Child sat at the back of a classroom

Helping your child

  • Talk to your child about what’s worrying them, making sure you validate their feelings. This will help you to make a plan to help them deal with their anxious feelings about school.
  • Look at the main triggers and see if you can think of strategies that can support your child when they face these triggers.
  • Have set routines and try and implement these before they are due to go back to school.
  • Use positive praise and reward with your child and make sure you are validating the effort that they are making – notice every small step.
  • Be consistent with what you are doing/trying. Make sure that you give your strategies time to work.
  • Work on supporting their anxious feelings and helping them with calming strategies. You can talk to your GP, School Nurse and school if you need some extra help with this.

Working with the school

  • Contact the school. It’s important to work together with the school and to start putting a plan in place before they are due to start back.
  • Ask the school what options there are to help. Can they do reduced timetables or provide support during trigger times? They might be able to suggest staggered start times or home visits to help your child build up a trust relationship.
  • Make sure your child knows who is supporting them and where to go if they need help.
Go back

Talk to us

Free and confidential live chat with parenting staff. Chat online or request a call back when it’s convenient for you.

Chat icon on mobile phone