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MSD Manual

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Quick Facts

School Avoidance


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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What is school avoidance?

School avoidance is when a child refuses to go to school.

  • School avoidance is most common in children ages 5 to 11

  • Children may fake illness and make up excuses to avoid going to school

  • Other children simply refuse to go

  • Some children go to school okay but become anxious or develop various symptoms during the day

  • Children may avoid school because they have emotional problems, have trouble learning, or have difficulties with a teacher or other children

  • Work with the school to try to find out what's causing the problem

  • Sometimes a therapist is needed to understand the problem and help children return to school

What causes school avoidance?

Children may avoid school because they:

  • Have emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression

  • Have learning difficulties and are embarrassed for people to see them do poorly

  • Feel unwanted or rejected by the other children

  • Are being bullied

  • Fear their teacher’s strictness or scolding

How can I treat my child’s school avoidance?

Treatment includes:

  • Identifying and fixing the problem

  • Keeping your child in school if at all possible—allowing children to stay home usually just makes school avoidance worse and risks them falling behind

  • Sometimes, going to a therapist

Children with learning problems may need special assistance. Teachers can help if your child is being bullied or mistreated by other children. School officials can help if your child has difficulties with a teacher. Therapists can help children with emotional difficulties and those with severe school avoidance from any cause.

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