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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Kelly

The Truth About School Avoidance: Practical Tips For Parents

Teens at the food court

When your child starts playing hooky more often than not, dodging classes like a pro and making excuses for missed days, it can be a cause for concern.

Maybe they're avoiding the dreaded math monster, sneaking away during P.E., or pulling a disappearing act before big tests.

You might find yourself playing hide-and-seek in school bathrooms or getting surprise calls for a midday rescue mission.

If this sounds like your daily grind, welcome to the world of school avoidance - where stress levels for you, your child, and the family are in a constant tug-of-war.


There are various reasons why children avoid school, from discomfort in certain situations to performance anxiety or attachment issues.

It could be the fear of social scenes, stage fright during presentations, or just a cozy attachment to home sweet home.

Add in the possibility of some mental health concerns, learning hurdles, or past traumas, and you’ve got a recipe for avoidance. It's like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces.

Mom hugging teen

Here are some practical tips for dealing with school avoidance:


  1. Start with a generous sprinkle of patience and a dollop of love. Remember, your child might not have all the words to explain what’s going on.

  2. Collaborate with the school to develop a plan together. This isn't a battle between you and the school; it's about finding solutions as a team. Collaboration beats a solo mission any day.

  3. Involve your child in discussions and decision-making. Their input is valuable in creating a plan that works for them. Their input is like the secret sauce to a successful plan.

  4. Avoid blaming yourself. School avoidance is complex and not solely a reflection of parenting. It’s not about pointing fingers but about finding solutions. And don’t forget to take care of yourself too!

  5. Tag-team it! Parents need to be on the same page to support their child in getting to school. Even if you don't always agree, it's crucial to communicate concerns and brainstorm solutions together. Remember, it's about tackling the problem, not battling each other.

  6. Consider seeking professional support, such as counselling, to help your child navigate their emotions and behaviors. Therapy can be like having a wise mentor guiding your child through the challenges.


Remember, addressing school avoidance requires empathy, collaboration, and patience.

Trust your instincts and be the advocate your child needs. After all, you’ve got the inside scoop on what makes them tick.

Bonnie Kelly is a Registered Provisional Psychologist specializing in working with families and teens struggling with identity, gender, relationships, and school. She is passionate about helping people better understand and express themselves, find their strengths, connect, and thrive. Bonnie provides affirming online therapy for individuals, families, and couples in Calgary and across Alberta, especially for neurodiverse, gender diverse, and 2SLGTBQIA+ folks.


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