What Can Parents Do to Help Their Child Succeed in School?

It can be quite frustrating dealing with a child who refuses to go to school. It's understandable to have separation anxiety in the beginning. But if school refusal behavior lasts more than two weeks, it is important to seek treatment for the child to prevent the development of more serious emotional and academic problems. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Meet with the child’s teacher and discuss his or her view of the problem and its causes. Keep the mindset that you and the teacher are allies to help your child succeed.
  2. Ask the teacher to communicate regularly with you about the problem and its progress.
  3. Educate yourself by reading books, exploring the Internet, and talking with other parents and education professionals.
  4. Encourage your child to identify and pursue his or her interests.
  5. Talk to your child about his or her life. Ask questions, avoid being judgmental, and listen carefully.

More importantly, when one thing doesn’t work, try another. There is almost always a solution. It requires persistence and the belief that your child can be helped.

Another excellent resource is the school psychologist who can help assess the situation. He or she may interview the child and administer one or more assessment questionnaires to determine the causes and recommend a treatment plan. Depending on the diagnosis, the treatment may include any of the following:

  • Medication to treat an underlying anxiety disorder or depression
  • Relaxation training or guided imagery
  • Positive reinforcement for gradually returning to normal school attendance
  • Individual counseling to explore feelings about negative situations at school
  • Training to develop social and problem solving skills
  • Parent training to deal effectively with negative behaviors and to reward positive behaviors
  • Family counseling to help the family manage conflict and communicate effectively

Important tip to remember with teens: If your child is an adolescent, it’s easy to get caught up in the power struggle and forget that the teen years comprise one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. While your teen may come across as being angry or lazy, he or she may actually be depressed and confused by all of the changes in his or her life.

Success in school is an important factor in helping the child build self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Your child's success is going to be a team effort and his or her success will be invaluable to future career and life success.