What Are the Signs of School Refusal?

School refusal is a term used to describe the signs of anxiety a school-aged child has and his or her refusal to go to school. It is also called school avoidance or school phobia. It can be seen in different types of situations.

What are the signs of school refusal?

Every child is different. But these are some of the behaviors your child may have:

  • Your child may complain of other symptoms, such as a stomachache or headache, that get better as soon as he or she is allowed to stay home.
  • Your child may tell you that he or she is anxious or afraid of a certain situation that happens at school.
  • Your child may not want to leave you because of a change in their life, such as:
    • New school
    • Just moved
    • New brother or sister
    • Sick brother, sister, or parent
    • Divorce
    • Death in the family

How is school refusal diagnosed?

School refusal is often diagnosed with a team approach. The team is made up of your child’s healthcare provider, you, your child, and teachers and counselors. Your child’s healthcare provider will rule out any real health problems that may be happening. A complete health history and physical exam will be done. School officials may be contacted for more information.

Managing school refusal

Every child is unique. So each situation will be handled on an individual basis. These are some of the interventions that may be used to help your child:

  • Return the child to school. Make sure the school officials understand the situation and don’t send the child home for the wrong reasons.
  • Think about family counseling if other problems exist.
  • Let the child talk about his or her concerns and fears.
  • Slowly separating the parent from the child in school may also be used. One approach is to have the parent sit with the child in the classroom at first. Then the parent may attend school, but sit in another room. Next, the parent may continue to get farther away.
  • A referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist may be needed.

Excerpted from “School Refusal” on the Standford Medicine Children’s Hospital website. For more information on school refusal, read the full article online.

Source:  Standford Medicine’s Children’s Hospital | School Refusal, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=school-refusal-90-P02288 | © 2022 Stanford Medicine Children’s Health
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