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Helping your child to overcome school refusal

Community Member
Ok, I am going to be super up front and direct about this topic.

I feel really bad for any parent in this situation as I can only imagine what they have gone through. The sadness, the dramas , the heartache , the sense of guilt, shame, anxiety about what to do, about what NOT to do.

I feel 3 things need to happen pretty quickly and intensively for any child refusing to go to school because of their anxiety or depression:

1. They need their condition treated
2. They need to get back to school as school refusal is a slippery slope
3. Parents, Guardians and any other family members need guidance in developing management skills to help the child as it is really hard work.

So… where to from here ?

Consult a great GP who can guide you to a great psychologist and child / adolescent psychiatrist. Your child needs a proper evaluation and diagnosis and treatment plan. ( Make sure it's anxiety/depression and not aspergers or something else for example)

I recommend parents find someone ( GP or therapist or case worker) to manage their child’s back to school plan. This involves managing the logistics of exactly how this happens - looking at the timing of when they go and for how long each time, and who they report to at the school in case of this that or the other…

Check if there is a Headspace centre near you, please drop in there and see what they can offer as they usually have some experience with this sort of thing:

If you don’t have a GP, you can find one here:

Whatever you do, just start doing it now and keep going . DO NOT GIVE UP! Keep searching for help as getting your child some relief from their anxiety/depression is really important and getting back into education is such an important goal. Ring helplines - Beyond Blue or kids helpline (1800 55 1800) if you get stuck.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you, I want to reassure you that the parental instinct that has lead you to research this is 100% spot on !!

Here is another helpful link: https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/mental-health-matters/school-refusal

Do you have experience in helping a child overcome school refusal? Share your tips and experiences below!
17 Replies 17

Community Member
I discuss how important going to school is with my child. She goes to school for me. I understand this is hard for her. We are constantly texted by her to pick her up. Often we are able to negotiate. We talk about expectations and the impact of not going to school. Currently feel unsupported by the school.

Community Member
My 15 year old has progressively been withdrawing himself from school and now refuses to go altogether. He claims a sleep disorder stops him from getting to sleep but he stays awake deliberately so he is too tired to get up. We have taken all his devices after an evening deadline. He still socialises on-line and with his older, supportive brothers. This has been going on most of this school year and plenty of last year. After getting an assessment from a GP, the GP refuses to send him for a mental health assessment and has not offered any medication or treatment path, just blood tests. I know, from my nursing training & experience living with 3 people with anxiety disorder, that this is what is emerging. His mother is in denial and is a soft-touch. What can I do without escalating into a shouting match (not my first response BTW)? The next step is a court directive. Any guidance would be welcome. I am so frustrated we haven't been offered any psychiatric assessment or help.

Hi fatherof4men,

Welcome to the forums! Thanks for being here -

I'm wondering if you are able to start up a new thread with this post? That way all of us champions and members can support you personally on your own thread rather than this thread (which is about tips and advice). Does that sound okay? I definitely have some thoughts on what might help so I'll hold them until I can see your new thread.

If you've posted it but I haven't replied yet feel free to link to it here - that way we'll make sure it gets seen and heard!

Thank you

Hi fatherof4men, I would like to follow your thread also. Can you post link here please?

Community Member

Hi Dr Kim, my 15 year old girl finds attending school a major battle every day. I began with informing her HOD (head of dept) that she wasn't coping. We started with sensory toys in the classroom and talking to her teachers to minimise putting pressure on her during class time. Not enough. Went through many plans and strategies but the school is about teaching and assessing (I'm a teacher so I get it). So to get my daughter what she needed and to meet her increasing needs as she slipped further into depression and anxiety I agreed to stop assessments and reporting for her for 1 term to reduce the stress of attending school, class, learning and doing assessments, being judged etc... Our goals at that stage was for her to go to school each day and attend classes as much as she could.

Throughout the year the plan has changed and has become official with the school allowing her to have a reduced timetable (having Wednesdays off),to have a 'timeout space' when she needs it (which is the library), she accesses this space with a leave card from the office, access to me on call for the days she can't cope with.

She has not received a report card all year but she is going to school 3 to 4 days a week and only has 1 or 2 times in the library throughout the day. Each day continues to be a struggle and I'm very concerned about what next year will bring (Yr 11)! I try and live by the 'one day at a time' motto even bringing it down to 'one hour at a time'.

Hi Daisy2,

Just letting you know that unfortunately Dr. Kim isn't on the threads anymore so she won't be able to reply to your post.

As this was only designed as a tips kind of thread, I wonder if it might be helpful having your own post? You could make one and then just copy the information over - that way we can all see what you've written and try and offer our own support, ideas or suggestions.

Also feel free to link to it here - that way I and anyone else can jump in and read your thread.

Community Member
My 14 year old daughter is constantly refusing to go to school, with morning tantrums, violent behavior and distressing panic attacks. This has been going on for several years now. School changes, counselling, GP intervention and pretty much every other strategy isn't working. This has caused great stress on our family who are all suffering along with my daughter. any advice on how to get through it because I'm wearing thin

Hi sarah$$,

Just letting you know that Dr. Kim isn't on the threads anymore - this was designed as a tips post. Are you able to make your own post? That way we can support you 1 on 1 and learn more about what's going on.

Also feel free to link to it here so that we can all see it. There's lots of parents in the same boat.

Community Member

I'm feeling sick with worry. My son years of bullying though physical and emotional abuse by his peers. Last year suicide thoughts. 3 weeks ago we moved him to a new school. His best mate moved with him. Thought everything was ok until he had a emotional break down. Stating he feels low again and feels he isn't welcome. His best mate isn't happy either after telling my son this the day before. We have booked him into headspace ( he refused to see someone face to face prior but has agreed to now) socially he is awkward has been standing back from sporting teams. Even though good at sport. He has refused to go to school as well.

Now he wants to go back to old school. Is that the best thing to do? I think he's scared that his bf will leave the new school because he has mentioned it to him.

I'm torn on what is best to do, sad face, go bk to the devil he knows( school he left) or with more outside support build him up socially ( even if his bf leaves) and make him stay at new school. Or give him a chance to make his own mine up.

Hard hard hard

My son is turning 14 he's in year 8.