If your child is refusing to go to school, this is known as ‘school refusal’ or ‘school phobia’. This is often caused by fear and anxious feelings.
School refusal can be more common among children with additional or special educational needs (SEN). The way to support all children with this issue is very similar.
Remember that your child is probably struggling with feeling anxious. Talk about what’s worrying them, making sure you listen to what they say. Try to help your child lessen their anxious feelings rather than fight against them.
We have some advice on how to help if your child is anxious about changes or transitions at school.
The ways to respond to school refusal are very similar for children with additional or special educational needs. Structure is key, as is taking things slowly.
You can also use a visual timetable. This will help your child to understand the journey they’re on to returning to school.
Don’t be afraid to break down the challenge into smaller parts. Instead of going from just doing the morning routine to travelling to school without going in, add in some stages. For example, if you child usually catches the bus to school, you could try the following:
Make sure your child knows who is supporting them and where to go if they need help. You can also talk to your GP or school nurse if appropriate. If your child wants to speak to someone themselves, Kooth, Childline and The Mix have a range of online, phone and text support for children and young people.
Work with the school. They might be able to suggest staggered start times or home visits to help your child build up a trust relationship.
You may also be able to get support for getting your child to attend school from:
You can ask your school, local children’s service or council if they can support with an Early Help and Assessment Plan. This brings together professionals supporting your child to help with any difficulties you may be facing.
Want more support? For advice on your specific issue, speak to one of our parenting coaches.
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