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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 Champion
Community Champion

Hi Traceej,

welcome to beyond blue.

It is really tough when you try to be there for your child and seemingly nothing you can do helps.

My personal thoughts are that it takes time to form new relationships when you move from one place to another. And this will be worse if you are also socially awkward as you said he was. And you have also booked him into headspace which is a positive step also.

What does you son mean when he says that he does not feel welcome? Is he getting bullied again? Or not able to join in?

As to what you should do... the best way (?) is to look at the positives and negatives of each option and then weigh them up. For example a positive of the new school is the outside support (from your post) and a negative might be less friends. At the old school, a positive might be know people, and negative is the bullying. Once you have exhausted the options you will know what the right decision is.

For yourself, you could also contact ParentLine in your local State or Territory, who will be able to advise you on what the next steps might be.



Community Member

HiDaisy2, my 15yr old daughter has panic disorder and seperation anxiety from me and fear of her loved ones dying. It's from a loss when she was 5 and more losses throughout her life. She hasnt been to school for last 4 months and all the steps you are describing we have been through. in 2019 things went better but after her brother moving out at same time it has been down hill again. Has had lots of councelling and healing of trauma has been achieved. Term 3 is starting, school is not an option atm, she hasnt received a report card. She wants to go and misses her friends but the fear of school is soo high. How do you cope with it all? I am not able to go out on my own atm. We are working on it and building up the time away from eachother. School is very supportive but I feel they are getting a bit antsy about her missing so much school. Have done reduced work from home. The forums say; take time for yourself but I am NOT in a position to take off on my own atm. It's very hard. Hubby is struggling with her condition and hides in work. He loves her but is not always connecting with her where she needs is most. Sometimes I feel like polony in a sandwich. Is anyone else in this situation by any change?

Hi Sarah,

I'm going through the same thing you are. My son is 13yrs old and due to anxiety/depression he isn't wanting to go to school. The wellbeing counsellor suggested we make up a timetable that may be able to help. I was just suggesting this for you too. Maybe if your daughter can go until recess on Mon, Tues and Wed. and then thursday and Friday go til lunch. Slowly build that time so they won't feel so overwhelmed. This is something i'm going to try as i know the feeling your going through. I wish i had more of a helpful suggestion but i'm dealing with the exact same thing. Goodluck Sarah$$

Community Member

With all due respect my blood boils when I see this post from a doctor. The parents of school refusers do not appreciate these views " They need to get back to school as school refusal is a slippery slope" and "Parents, Guardians and any other family members need guidance in developing management skills to help the child as it is really hard work"

I am currently bracing myself to get my teenage daughter to school this morning. It is now the 3rd year of this DAILY struggle. Can you imagine 3 years of hours of cajoling, tears, tantrums everyday . 3 years of health care professionals, waiting lists, reports, expense, experimentation with medication and the side effects. Three years of threats of prosecution, hospitalisation, paperwork and appointments. 2 of those years as a single mother of two because the father couldn't handle the situation anymore.

I have watched my poor kid go from scared of 2 bullies in her class to scared of life. So withdrawn she cant even stand to have the curtains in the house open. It breaks my heart.

You say its a slippery slope like the longer it goes on the worse it will get... well der. The guilt trip is not appreciated.

You say its my fault, I'm too soft, I need training and guidance. Well thank you for your judgement. You probably think I will be spending my day curled up on the couch with my netflix and cigarettes but I am a secondary school teacher of 30 years experience and i need to get to work.

Community Member

Hi everyone,

I recently just showed this post to help my parents in contacting help for my sister, but I also think my parents need some advice to point them in the right direction on what to do. My parents are really lost right now and are waiting for my sister to agree and decide on something to do (which is nothing at this point.) She has not attended school for a week and a few days now and my parents are inclined on pulling her out.

Now, she only sits at her room on her bed staring at the wall and does nothing. She would not even talk to my parents or my sisters. Other than that, she also goes to the bathroom to wash her face, hands and checks her face quite frequently (like one hour after every 3-4 hours) at the mirror.

I want to seek a professional's help right now to consult my parents on what to do for my youngest and also arrange my youngest home visits. She is not in the state of mind right now to consult her problems through online services when she gets super anxious and conscientious of herself on technology (that she would hang up immediately).

I lost the anger a long time ago but I am with you.

My daughter now 17 endured bullying from teachers as well as kids all through her primary school years. When she reported bullying they decided she was lying and she was sat down to read the boy who cried wolf..

I was regularly at school, on email or phone asking what is happening I even had the education department involved. She was being knocked over, locked in a garden shed, hands slammed. But that is only what I know.

I did the move school thing..

By end of grade 6 and another school she had bad anxiety.... she still went to school out of respect for me even though she was coming home with bruises every day...

I took her to headspace. In 3 appointments she went from a child with problems to withdrawn.

Grade 8 she had a nervous breakdown in the first term... I took her to a psychologist and had her tested she has anxiety, ADD and short term memory problems... the school did all the things above but each turn they kept pressuring her to the point her memory was so bad she couldn't walk. I had meetings with the school paying the psychologist to be there... the guidance officer decide she wasn't bad enough and it was my fault being a single parent. It was about this time I heard about the tapping behaviour in class. I had never been told this at any school.

Let me just say I was body builder... no drinking.. no smoking.. worked full time to support her... my outing were family camping with her! We are close...

Then came the flexi schools... first one seemed to think a child walking around telling kids she will kill them in their sleep is okay... they went through 5 teachers in one year which of course does nothing for stability. By the end we would establish a strategy for her then the first day back they would break it with an excuse... I used to have to write a message 4 words long or she couldn't read it.

Oh did I mention at this stage the self-harm.. the insomnia... and the night mares...

So next flexi school and this is when the hallucinations started. They would leave her in an empty class room and the shadow men would come out of the walls to whisper for her to kill herself... then the blackouts started when she would wake up to being yelled at for something she had no idea she did... this was about the time we found out she had PTSD by accident because the shrink she saw regularly for 2 years missed it. no medication has worked...

It got so bad she couldn't read a sentence. She could hold a pen... she couldn't eat....

Both flexischools couldnt give me an education plan or any kind of educational information material and I thought they were a school.

Eventually she got kicked out of school as soon as they could because she was at an age she could leave... I can tell you she passed grade 5 but after that no one can give any indication of her grade level.

I went to CYMHS and they pushed us into a course to help. She became so bad she could see the ground for the hallucinations. When I approached them for help they got her in a room and pressured her to leave home.... yes I know by this stage you are saying WTF...

Now a few weeks from her 18th Birthday my daughter is missing... oh her body is here but I have Ren one of her alters mainly. And occasionally I have Kira... yeah my daughter has DID or multiple personality disorder from the years of bullying at school... PTSD will often roll into this... and the blackouts at school... was Eric...

Yeah I hear the post about the son staying up all night so he is too tired at 14. That is what I used to think with my daughter as it is what I was told... she has insomnia!! She was in her devices to stop the nightmares/hallucinations that scared her. She would sit all night petrified of what would happen to her the next day.

She had the agoraphobia....

She has pain in all her body that no one has been able to explain...

She has pain every time she walks...

She has an allergy to most fruit and vegetables even though she was brought up healthy.

All I can say from my experience is build a relationship with your children and learn to listen to them... Believe them... Start being Human rather than the parent that they expect you to be...

If I had been that parent there is no doubt in my mind my daughter would be dead... and just to confirm that the alters have told me too.

Now her friends come to me because they can't talk to their parents!!!

Hey Wolf Mum, thanks for reaching out on the forums tonight,

We can hear that you and your daughter's journey has been a very long and difficult one. We can hear that you've both had some very unhelpful experiences with school staff and mental health services and know this must've been very disheartening. The love and care you have for your daughter are clear and we acknowledge how tough it must be to manage these challenges as a single mother. 

We'd recommend that you get in contact with Parentline. Talking to a Parentline counsellor can help you navigate difficult parenting dilemmas such as the one you've outlined. If you follow the link below it will take you to the contact numbers for Parentline in each State/Territory: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/issues/how-parentline-can-help-you

If you feel that it would be beneficial to about your feelings with a counsellor, please, contact the Beyond Blue Support Service anytime on 1300 22 4636 or get in touch with us on Webchat 3pm-12am AEST here: www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport. 

Please check in and let us know how you are whenever you feel up to it.

Community Member
Thank you. This is such a helpful thread. It's frustrating at times dealing with this kind of situation. Some parents just give up.