Please help me with my 12 year old who refuses to go to school.

"I have a 12 yr old son who refuses to go to school, he gets very upset an starts being sick when i make go to school. the school have been ok but i feel that could do better in helping me. they let him go in till 11am and he has to sit in reception which isn't helping him at all, as he's not getting involved with his friends. this has been going on now for 5 months and i do not know what to do, I'm making it boring as possible at home but he still refuses to go. please help."

Asked by Lisa after reading the article, "When Your Child Refuses to Go to School":
In Topics: School and Academics, Motivation and achievement at school
> 60 days ago



Oct 21, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Lisa,

I imagine it must be very frustrating to see your son suffering. There are a couple of questions to consider: First, I wonder whether he has always struggled with school attendance, or has his relationship with school changed recently? If he has always been uncomfortable with school attendance, it seems there is a long-standing issue that remains unsolved, either in relation to school, individuals at school, or a situation at home. Many children who demonstrate school refusal want to stay home in order to avoid something at school or spend additional time with a caregiver at home.

However, if he has only recently begun to reject school, something likely happened recently that he feels unable to cope with. Many children who are overwhelmed emotionally will go into "lock down", freezing up, refusing certain things such as school when they cannot manage. And, because your son is getting sick, I suspect that he has been holding in some intense feelings that are "leaking" throughout his body, causing stomach discomfort and other physical problems. When strong feelings are not let out slowly via talking or other ways of relaxation or stress reduction (e.g., drawing, listening to music, etc), they tend to come out in the form of physical symptoms.

Whether his struggle with school is new or old, he is clearly struggling to manage some big feelings. I recommend that you research opportunities for him to talk with a counselor. Ask the school whether they have someone on staff (i.e., school psychologist) who he can speak with. If not, get a referral for someone in your community. If you are strapped for cash, there are a number of community organizations and/or university training centers that have low-cost, sliding-scale counseling available. For instance, if you live near a university with a training program for counselors, your son can talk with one of the trainees who would be supervised by a licensed counselor. Often, this kind of treatment is just as good, if not better, than other therapies in the community because the trainees work very hard for their clients.

Best of luck. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

L. Compian, Ph.D.
Child Psychologist

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