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My teen won't go to school!

If you are struggling right now with getting your child to school please know that you are not in any way alone and you have not failed as a parent. Whether it is a mark of our society today or something else we have not quite put our finger on, the fact is there is an alarming number of teens refusing to go to school. Teen justifications include anxiety, depression, fear of bullying, fear of treatment of a teacher, and often no voiced reason at all.

In the years of working with teens I can say that most (not all) of the time the underlying reason has something to do with the child not wanting to face something that has developed as a result of their own decisions. That is not to say that some of those decisions weren’t a symptom of anxiety, depression, or some other struggle. Even if this is the case there is no effective treatment for these mental health issues that includes enabling and joining in allowing the teen to fall from routine and responsibilities. I know it is difficult but there has to be a balance of not enabling, not obsessing, and not creating more chaos in an attempt to control and change the teens poor behavior/decisions.

What this looks like is you focusing on what you control. You control not signing off their absence with a lie or excuse. You control not doing the same chaotic thing like yelling or lecturing to try to get them up. You control calling the Truancy Officer and school for help. You most likely do not control physically getting them up and to school. You do not control the consequences they may suffer from school. You do not control their willingness.

An example of case that in time changed significantly for the better is a family that decided to set boundaries with what they controlled and let go of the rest. They asked each morning once and only once for their teen to get up. The car left at the same time each day no matter what. They stopped signing off and excusing the absences. They made the boundary that if there was a missed day of school the bedroom was to be locked up for a week so that the parents did not participate in allowing the teen to use their bed and room to sleep in. In time the teen made his own choice to change the behavior and the chaos slowly changed from being targeted towards the parents to with the school and truancy staff. To be honest it took quite a while, but in time the family realized that the attendance and morning “getting up” battles were a thing of the past.

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