The adolescent years are definitely the most challenging years, not only for the parents but even for the teenagers themselves. Parents argue that sometimes their adolescent refuses to attend school and the reasons or excuses behind this vary a lot.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, teenagers struggled with many challenges and now that the health restrictions are being reduced, we are still faced with new challenges. Since it’s been almost a year that we have been living with Covid-19, many became accustomed to certain changes. All students were told to stay home, when schools and colleges closed down and although online lessons were introduced however, a few still did not manage to follow these lessons due to difficulties related to the home environment or to the student’s learning difficulties. Those who did not manage to follow online lessons, may find it even worse to resume attending because they might find it hard to return back to the routine. Moreover, they might give up since they fear that when they return to school they will not manage to follow or catch up with their classmates especially now that the scholastic year is almost over.

Furthermore, there are student who are refusing to attend school because they fear that they will be left alone, since they did not manage to make friends because school was interrupted many times this year. Also, there are students who fear to return to school due to their pandemic fear. Covid-19 cases were everywhere not only in schools, but students who have pandemic fear worry that they might contract Covid-19 from school.

Unfortunately, as we are all aware, there were cases which resulted in death and hence, who suffer from anxiety and also those who lost someone from Covid-19 are more likely to find it difficult to get back to the routine as they still might fear to contract the virus. We need to be very careful even though the cases are decreasing and we need to support each other especially those who have pandemic fear or who suffer from anxiety. Above all this, slowly-slowly we all need to get back on track.

But how can I encourage my teenager to return to school or what should I do if my adolescent refuses to attend school?

  • First of all, talk to your son/daughter and check why he/she is refusing to attend,
  • If the reason behind the refusal is due to the fact that the teenager is finding it difficult to return to school after the Covid-19 adaptations, then as a parent you can contact the school for support. In many schools around the island, in each college, there is a psychosocial team who can support the student and his/her family. Furthermore, communication with the school can be done in order to ask for the support of the Guidance teachers,
  • The teenager can be encouraged to attend for shorter days or for example 3 times a week, in accordance with the permission of the Head of School,
  • The parents should set some ground rules to help the teenager to get back to the routine like, setting bedtime and also rewarding the student when he/she manages to attend school,
  • As a parent, support the teenager as much as possible, at first try to accompany the student to school if this can help him/her to be less anxious especially on the first few days,
  • Ask the teenager what he/she needs to feel supported and less anxious,
  • Don’t give up if first attempts fail, dialogue with the teenager and let him/her know that you are doing this in his/her best interest.  

Rachel Osmond is a Family Therapist with Willingness who works with individuals, couples and families. She also has experience with children and adolescents.