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School Avoidance and Anxiety

School Avoidance and Anxiety

mother walking son to school

Getting our kids safely back to school is always highly anticipated and welcomed. However, getting back into a school routine can come with struggles for some kids unaccustomed to school after a prolonged absence. Refusal to go to school may appear to be straightforward, but can sometimes come with a variety of physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach pain.

Either way, the longer a child stays out of school, the anxiety of returning can become even more difficult to combat. Here are some things that parents can do to help their children through this time.

What can parents/guardians do to help? 

  • Speak calmly with the young person. Let them know that you understand.
  • Encourage them to talk to you about how they feel.
  • Be reassuring.
  • Once you have reassured them and helped them to take some slow deep breaths, be persistent and bring your young person to school. This is the right thing to do.
  • Give your young person some positive self-statements such as : “ I can do this”, “I went to school yesterday and it was fine”.
  • Praise them for making the effort to go to school.
  • Model positive coping and positive thinking- use examples from your own life.
  • Be consistent and present a united front.
  • Encourage relationships and communication outside of school.
  • Establish and maintain good routines for bedtime, getting up, breakfast, organization of the uniform, school bag and equipment.
  • Listen but do not reinforce their fear/anxiety. Make statements such as “I know that you feel ……., we will work on it together, I will help you”.
  • Don’t ask leading questions, for example ask, “How are you feeling?” rather than “are you worried?”


Additional suggestions:

Reach out to the school guidance department about putting together a return-to-school plan.

Do not allow the child to give in to the anxiety by offering long-term virtual learning from home as a solution.

Practice calming techniques together such as visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing (see or their MindShift app).

Reach out to your pediatric provider if school refusal is lasting longer than a few days or if you are unsure if symptoms are organic in nature.


References and resources:


For more tips on this topic, watch our video interview 'Helping Our Kids Manage Anxiety"