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What to Do When Your Teen or Tween Refuses to Go to School

5 Tricks to Get Your Teen to Attend School – Even If They Hate It

Parenting is hard at every stage. It doesn’t matter if you are losing sleep feeding newborns, trying to childproof your home for toddlers, or worrying about your tweens and teens preparing for real-life decisions, parents are always stressed. So why must our teenagers overflow with angst about attending school?


That was supposed to be the easy part, right?


If you are finding yourself battling your teen to get up, get ready, and roll out the door to keep up school attendance, you might be fighting the wrong war.


Talking to our teens may be met with eye rolls and sighs of the convinced child that we have no idea what we are talking about, but those conversations are still important. Consider chatting with your teen about the importance of and repercussions from poor school attendance. 

Why School Attendance Matters for Your Teen

  1. It is important to know the legal ramifications of excessive tardies and absences. In most states, that can require court appearances for your teen or even the parents.
  2. When gaps attendance add up, your teen will likely miss sections of lessons that put them behind their peers in learning the required class content. This can also affect their standardized test scores required to graduate.
  3. While the social aspect of school is secondary for most, missing periods of time can affect their ability to make and keep friends.

Before you accuse them of making poor life choices or ruining their future before it starts, consider the following.

Questions to Consider about Your Teen’s School Attendance

  1. What is your teen actually feeling?
  2. Are your expectations as your teen’s parent realistic?
  3. Could there be an underlying cause to your teen’s school refusal?

Once you have opened the dialogue between you and your teen, start to involve support.

Let the School Back Your Efforts to Raise Your Teen’s Attendance

Make the School Aware

Being proactive about an attendance issue allows you to create a partnership with your teen’s school so they know you are working alongside them to help your teen.


Know Your District’s Attendance Policies

Find out about the school’s attendance policies and procedures to help you to avoid any legal or financial penalties while you try to address the problem.


Cooperate with your Teen’s School

Working together will give your teen the best chance of success to get back on track.


If you feel like you’ve built a solid foundation, now you are ready to start engaging new tactics to get your teen up and moving toward the door during the week.

Tips to Get Your Teen to School 

Get Out of Bed

Admittedly, these tips may not be popular at first but they can pay big dividends in the long run.

  • Remove Screens from Bedrooms
  • Set a Bedtime
  • Increase Physical Activity During the Day
  • Try Incentives

Practice Proper Personal Hygiene

Respect your teen’s right to privacy, so breach this subject with sensitivity.

  • Educate them about Their Bodies
  • Set Shower Days of the Week
  • Take then Shopping for Hygiene Products They Like

No matter what you try that works or falls flat, remember these crucial pointers.


Do’s and Don’ts of Trying to Get Your Teen to School

Do Consider Your Own Attitude

Although we are well-intentioned, our actions can have negative consequences in our teen’s minds. Our kids can easily feel pressured if we force conversations about school, especially if those conversations lead to anger or sarcastic responses from us. We need to approach our teens when they are not already upset, with a calm demeanor, and without accusation.


Don’t Make Assumptions

Our teens are facing much more pressure and stress than we ever did. They might say that they hate their classes, when really they are afraid that they’ve fallen behind or are worried they’ll fail. Try to create a safe space for them to be honest with you. Missing school is the symptom, not the underlying cause.


Do Pour on the Praise 

It doesn’t matter how small, most teens thrive on praise and validation. They are navigating this confusing time in their lives when they aren’t really kids anymore but they aren’t quite adults yet either. Whether it is a homework assignment or completed project, praise them for their efforts. It will go much farther than punishment in most cases.


Don’t Make Idle Threats

Parenting is frustrating at any age. The older kids are, the less likely making threats of any kind will work to motivate them to act. Instead, ask open questions and be honest about your own experiences. Teens forget that we were once human people, too. Remind them. This will likely open lines of communication so you can begin to see what is really going on without threatening consequences you don’t want to follow through on anyway.


Do Talk to Their Friends’ Parents 

If your teen isn’t opening up to you about the root of their issues, then try reaching out to the parents of their friends. They may not love this, but hopefully those parents can keep it between you. Kids are much more likely to open up to a third, seemingly non-biased party so don’t take it personally but do use the information to help you understand your teen’s perspective.


Once you’ve covered your bases your teen should be on their way down the road with their book bags packed, right? But what if they aren’t?

What to Do with Your Teen When You’ve Tried Everything

If you feel like you have tried every avenue to reach your teen about the importance of school attendance but it is all falling on deaf ears, here are some last resorts.


  • Ask the school if they will work with your child’s individual needs with home-based learning that can transition back into attending school on shortened schedules.
  • Make an appointment with your teen’s physician. Your doctor may refer your teen or tween to a mental health professional such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist to evaluate their ability to cope with life stressors, overwhelm, and anxiety. 
  • Evaluate alternative education options.Check what is available in your state, but most  involve homeschooling, online learning, co-op groups, or distance education. 

Raising children is the most difficult and rewarding job we will ever have, but we must keep our heads down and continue to push forward because our kids–no matter their age–will always want us behind them cheering them on and supporting them.

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