Adapted from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s page on School Refusal

Going to school is usually an enjoyable event for children. However, for some it can cause intense fear or panic. Parents should be concerned if their child or teen regularly complains about feeling sick or often asks to stay home from school with minor physical complaints. Not wanting to go to school may occur at any time, but is most common in children ages 5-7 and 11-14, times when children are dealing with the new challenges of elementary and middle school. These children may suffer from a paralyzing fear of leaving the safety of their parents and home. The child’s panic and refusal to go to school is very difficult for parents to cope with, but these fears and behavior can be treated successfully, with professional help.

Refusal to go to school often begins following a period at home in which the child has become closer to the parent, such as a summer vacation, a holiday break, a long weekend, or a brief illness. It also may follow a stressful occurrence, such as the death of a pet or relative, a change in schools, or a move to a new neighborhood. In some cases, it can be the result of the child experiencing bullying or behavioral health issues.

Some children who display school refusal behavior may have separation anxiety disorder. The potential long-term effects (anxiety and panic disorder as an adult) are serious for a child who has persistent separation anxiety and does not receive professional assistance. The child may also develop serious educational or social problems if their anxiety keeps them away from school for an extended period of time.

For persistent school refusal, parents and child should consult with their pediatrician and/or a qualified mental health professional, who will work with them to develop a plan to return the child to school and activities.

New refusal to go to school in the older child or adolescent may be related to peer/social problems (such as bullying) or developing behavioral health concerns, and often requires more intensive evaluation and treatment.

Your child’s school should support your family and your treatment provider’s plan for successful school attendance through the development of a 504 plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Learn more about school refusal in the full article from the AACAP at the link below: