Help! My teen won’t go to school! School Refusal

Help! My teen won’t go to school!

Is each morning a struggle with your teen to get them to go to school? Do they:

  • Stay home most days?
  • Skip classes frequently?
  • Not complete assignments or homework?

What is school refusal?

When your teen has difficulty attending school frequently we label it as “school refusal” in counselling terms. School refusal is different from your teen periodically skipping a class or deciding to stay home once in a while. School refusal means that your teen is not showing up to school on a regular basis.

Why do teens not want to go to school?

There are sooooo many reasons why a teen may choose not to go to school. However, as Anxiety BC suggests, there are four main reasons for school refusal:

1. To escape from school situations that cause distress (e.g. Riding on the school bus, a teacher, or a particular class or area of school)

2. To escape from unpleasant social or performance situations (e.g. Playing or working with peers, speaking or reading in front of the class, or attending assemblies)

3. To get attention from others (e.g. To spend time with a parent)

4. To pursue fun activities outside of school (e.g. To spend time with friends, go to the mall, or to be home alone sleeping, watching TV, etc.)

What can be done?

If your teen is not showing up for classes most days than the FIRST thing you need to do is figure out why they are not going to school. Here are some examples of approaching the subject with your teen:


  • “I got a call from the principle and they told me you’ve missed 15 days of school this month. I am worried about you and wondering what is stopping you from attending school?”


  • “You’ve been staying home from school a lot lately and the doctor can’t find anything physically wrong. Can you think of any other reasons why you might not want to go to school?”


Depending on what you teen says next, some steps may be:

1. Speaking to the principle and/or teachers to discuss:

  • bullying
  • test anxiety and accommodations

2. Scheduling an appointment with a counsellor to help your teen with:

  • managing anxiety
  • reducing depression
  • career counselling to help them become motivated to go to school
  • family counselling to explore parent/teen relationship and how to adjust it to improve school attendance

3. Getting your teen tested for learning disabilities


Insight Mental Health Counselling