When school's out

This is a tall order. You have been arguing with your child for weeks about going to school. Another fight this morning and he’s still at home on the Playstation. In your day, children went 'on the hop' if they didn’t want to go to school and in doing so, went to great lengths to conceal the fact from their parents. Forged notes, older friends calling the school to report that the child was sick – anything to avoid a parent finding out. But now, now your child is simply refusing to go and he doesn’t care who knows it. Not only that, he has decided to entertain himself with Fortnite while you work hard to get him back on track. And now, we are suggesting that you don’t fight with him. This is crazy stuff! There will have to be consequences. If we are not fighting with him about this, he’ll think we approve! And so the fight goes on. Every  morning. Calling him every five minutes – threatening to withdraw privileges – I’ll break that bloody Playstation. Cajoling – I’ll get you a new game if you go in. Like a pendulum – swinging from one approach to another.

There are few situations more frustrating than a child refusing to go to school. And what about your job? You can’t leave him on his own all day. Parents often feel as though they are being held hostage – having to stay home with a child that just won’t budge. How can you possibly let it go?

The truth is that the fight just takes you in circles and the fractures in the relationship with your child run deeper every day. Soon, your relationship centres on school and his refusal to attend. You just can’t let it go. But, nothing gets solved when conflict is so high. Your daily efforts to get him back to school are probably making you feel more and more powerless. How about starting with repairing the relationship? This does not mean accepting the situation. Ask his school for support.  Can a liaison teacher contact him or perhaps call to the home? Ask school staff to keep him connected to the school community - even if he is not using his seat - can they e-mail him, Whatsapp him, send him some homework by post. Can his class mates be encouraged to reach out and invite him back? Send him the message that he is missed and has a right to an education and that people are there to help him return.

There are many reasons why a child might withdraw from school. A supportive relationship and a plan made when things are calm is much more likely to help a child return to school. Look for support with friends and relatives – not to enter the fight – but to reach out, notice your child is not attending and offer support and encouragement. Letting the fight go does not mean you approve. It means you want to be supportive and it means you plan to be successful. So if he hasn’t gone in today, don’t carry it on all day. It won’t help. Come at it from another angle.

September 2018