Rotating between different teachers, different classes, and dealing with peers can cause moments of mild anxiety for most students. Most students can overcome these anxieties, and many enjoy the social aspects of school. However, for some students, the anxiety can become overwhelming to the point that they refuse to attend school. When this happens, it’s called school refusal. School refusal can take many forms such as, frequently arriving late to school, leaving school before time, or not attending school altogether. Below are measures that parents can take to spot the trend.

Signs and Symptoms

School refusal has a variety of internalized and externalized symptoms. Internalized symptoms are those which are not easily observed for example: anxiety (separation and social anxiety), fatigue, social withdrawal, depression, and fear. Students also experience somatic problems such as stomachaches and headaches.

Externalized symptoms are more obvious and include aggression, running away, defiance, tantrums, refusing to move, and clinging to parents. Children may also experience symptoms like vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or difficulties in breathing.


Experts categorize school refusal as a heterogeneous behavior. They have also established the following as the prevalent causes of school refusal.

  • To avoid unpleasant evaluative and social situations.
  • Escaping school-based situations that make them feel bad about themselves.
  • Attention seeking.
  • Seeking other rewards outside of those available at school.

Parents should understand that school refusal is a trend that they can manage. Below are the measures they can take to help stop it.

Seek Professional Help

Most parents wait until the problem becomes too profound before taking action. Unfortunately, everyday a student misses school can significantly impact their academic achievement. The best thing to do is to recognize the problem earlier on and seek professional help.

Intervention by a behavioral therapist can improve a child’s ability to cope with distress. This helps the child deal with the anxiousness that comes with the school routine.

Consider the Possible Triggers

If a child shows signs of school refusal, a parent should try to figure out what might be triggering this behavior. The best way to determine potential triggers is by casually inquiring about the child’s experiences in school and any potential challenges they are facing. Keen observation might also help in discerning the triggers of school refusal behavior.

Take a Kind but Firm Approach

When tackling school refusal, a parent must convey kindness by offering physical affection and listening when children talk about their struggles and worries. However, parents must also be firm about school attendance. They need to make their children understand they have to attend school despite the challenges. Coupled with this insistence is the need to provide appropriate support both at home and in school. If your child is displaying signs of school refusal, it’s always a good idea to speak with your child’s teachers and the school counselor. Together you can ensure your child receives the support they need while staying on track academically. 

Dr. Edward S. Thalheimer is the President and Founder of The Tutoring Franchise Corp.  For our part, we here at The Tutoring Center® are continuing to provide one-to-one instruction combined with The Rotational Approach to Learning® to prevent children from slipping through the cracks academically. Our programs help children achieve long-term success, build concentration and focus, and, with our outstanding instructors, find the love of learning. Don’t let your child fall behind this school year. If you’re interested in learning more, visit our website at