School refusal or school anxiety may start for any number of reasons: it might be because of worries about school work, friends, or bullying or it can easily be triggered after a period of illness or absence from school.
It may be hard for your child to express why they feel the way they do and they may be worried about telling you if it involves others. Encourage them to talk so you can make a plan together and try not to jump in with judgements or solutions too quickly. While avoiding school is understandable when it causes anxiety, it becomes very hard to go back to school once you’ve been off for a while. Parents need to try and tread the very fine line between being sensitive to their child’s needs and worries (and not dismissing them) and being aware that avoidance tends to make the problem worse. We’ve picked some really great resources to help you manage your child’s anxiety, and your own emotional needs and find some practical advice.
See also the section on anxiety and the general primary page for some resources on building confidence and resilience.
You may also like to speak to your child’s school. Find out from the school who is the best person to talk to. It may be the Special Educational Needs worker (SENCO), the Headteacher, the class teacher or the Head of the Year.
Anxiety after time off school
- Five ways to help your child settle back into the school routine
- Back-to-school anxiety Written by clinical psychologists during the pandemic, the ideas would be useful in any situation and are very practical, for example how to use ‘worry time’.
- Lunchbox Notes- Ways to help your child with back-to-school nerves
General school anxiety?
- Starting secondary school this summer? Top Tips from BBC Bitesize with videos and advice from other young people
- Advice for parents on anxiety and phobias in children, including advice on school phobia.
- Problems at school This links you to a great video “In Trouble at School”
- School-related problems such as problems with friends, exam stress, homework and revision, moving schools, worrying about your future and more. Lots of really useful resources here for all age groups.
- Ideas on how to talk with your child and the school plus information on the legal aspects of school attendance
- Strategies that are adapted for children with autism
- What to do when you don’t want to be apart: A kids’ guide to overcoming separation anxiety by Lavalee, Schneider and McDonnell for ages 4+ years.
- Meesha Makes Friends by Tom Percival. A beautifully illustrated book about Meesha who struggles to make friends – perfect for children who struggle to navigate social situations.
- Ruby’s Worry and Tilda Tries Again are two more books by Tom Percival about coping with anxiety and challenging situations.
- Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe. A book about anxiety, self-esteem and friendship written by a primary school teacher. Available in your local library as part of the Reading Well scheme.
- Overcoming School Refusal A practical guide for teachers, counsellors, caseworkers and parents by Joanne Garfi. Written by a psychologist who has spent 30 years helping children who school refuse, it is well indexed giving advice for parents and schools on how to tackle this issue.
- Getting Your Child to Say”Yes” to School ·A Guide for Parents of Youth with School Refusal Behavior by Christopher Kearney. This is an American book, which has received good reviews from parents. It is aimed at parents and provides suggestions on how to help.