School is a significant learning aspect of teenagers’ lives. Its classrooms are brimming with knowledge essential for the future. In its hallowed halls walks every possible stereotype along with their cliques. Generally, school is where teenagers are supposed to thrive as it is a training ground for the real world. But despite it being an exciting experience, the school can also be challenging. It is, after all, influenced by many factors such as learning abilities, societal expectations, and even family life. These factors can often tarnish a teenager’s perception of school, leading them to refuse to attend. It’s normal for them to sometimes voice their discontent, but an ongoing aversion or downright refusal to attend school can be a concerning issue. Aversion to school is often caused by intense feelings of anxiety, fear, depression, or even distress caused by uncomfortable circumstances that are being or were experienced in the past.
Recognizing and understanding a teenager’s school avoidance is essential to address the issues that may lead to them dropping out entirely.
Signs of teen school refusal
When teenagers reject the thought of going to school, their resistance may show in the form of:
- Throwing tantrums.
- Showing alarming emotions like intense crying and screaming.
- Pleading not to go during mornings.
- Making up sickness or discomfort.
- Being in an anxious state.
- Threatening to cause self-harm.
- Sleeping issues.
It is also vital to recognize whether what you are witnessing is a typical resistance to school or not. Some of the factors you should consider are:
- Duration of school avoidance.
- Persistence to avoid school.
- Distress levels regarding going to school.
- Your teen’s life and your family are being severely affected.
Additionally, your teen may still attend school but show a strong dislike for going by being tardy or cutting classes. They may even spend their time at the school clinic or text you constantly to pick them up.
Causes of teen school refusal
A single reason rarely causes school refusal. When it comes to a strong dislike for school, there are often correlating factors, such as:
- Complicated relationships with other teenagers.
- Difficulty in academics.
- Problems with a professor.
- Sexual harassment from someone with authority or another student.
- Social anxiety.
- Family problems.
- Stress disorder resulting from a previous school incident.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 21% of students aged 12-18 were bullied in 2015. Bullying includes being made fun of, insulted, called names, subject of rumours, social exclusion, threatened, pushed, shoved, tripped, spit on, forced to do things they don’t want to do, and destruction of properties. These factors can be enough to cause teens 160,000 of them in one year, in fact, to skip school every day.
Among the priorities of teenagers include social acceptance. The thought of being rejected by others is intense, crippling fear, as shown by a study conducted at the University of Michigan that showed activation of similar brain parts that induce physical pain.
In addition, someone might avoid school because they feel isolated or ganged up on by previously close friends.
Teenagers are prone to sexual harassment because harassers see them as tolerant and silent in the sense that they are likely not to disclose anything to anyone.
48% of middle and high schoolers claim that they were sexually harassed at least once based on a survey by the American Association of University Women.
There are also instances where sexual harassment turns to physical violence. When violence and threats come into play, teenagers are even more resistant to attending school.
A teenager experiencing social anxiety is overcome with intense feelings of fear in social settings. Such anxiety can disrupt everyday activities, particularly school attendance. Teens exhibiting social anxiety will avoid contact with both teachers and peers alike from fear of being judged.
Some symptoms are:
- Fear of performing in front of schoolmates or even talking to them in general.
- Constant feeling of nausea.
- Unexpected blushing that causes more embarrassment.
- Excessive sweating.
- Shaking due to nervousness.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by a school incident
PTSD is a psychological response to an event that caused trauma. If an acute stress disorder lasts for more than a month from the traumatic event, it is already considered PTSD.
School instances such as shootings or bomb threats are usually the root cause of stress disorders and school refusal. Avoiding a place associated with trauma is understandably the solution that teens see as the safest option. It is crucial for parents and school counselors to provide support for these children. We at Key Transitions can offer the best possible help by providing substance abuse treatment for teens to cure their various addictions.Contact us today to learn more about our Teen Outpatient Treatment Programs.
Teen school refusal: How to help your teen
First and foremost, you have to understand your child’s reasons for their school refusal. Avoid using forceful methods. Establish open communication and let them tell you what’s happening at school. This will let you know how to help them and what course of action to take. Teens not liking school could signal larger problems.
Here are some of the ways you can help your teen:
- Communicate with your child
As stated before, communicating with your child will give you the general picture of their situation, and from there, you can offer solutions and advice.
- Tell the school what’s happening
It would be easier to involve school staff such as your teen’s teacher. They can take tabs on your child and update you on what’s happening. If bullying is involved, they have the authority to stop the issue and formulate solutions on how to avoid future instances.
- Get yourself some support
If you find that your teen is still continuously missing school, sign up for a support group that tackles teen school refusal. These groups can give you pointers on how to help your teen.
- Look for alternative schooling options
You can consider homeschooling your teen if physically attending school is difficult for them. This method can help your teen manage their emotions and deal with their issues in the safety of your home. This safe environment can bring them the peace and comfort that was not present in a school setting. You can reapply your teen at school once they decide that they can attend again.
A teen’s refusal to go to school is typically not an act of rebellion. It is caused by severe problems that parents might not know about. Hence, if your teen starts showing signs of school refusal, it is essential to discuss how the decision will affect their lives and how you will help them. Teenagers want to feel that they are not alone in their battles and that their parents are more than willing to stand by their side. Show them this kind of support, and together, find the solution to your teen’s refusal to go to school.