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Son suddenly refuses to go to school: sign of something bigger?

answered 06:46 PM EST, Mon April 23, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
My 10 year old (grade 4) is the kind of kid who has always been a very nice boy but also an over-worrier. Last Monday he refused to go to school and I have not been able to make him go since then (today is day 6 off school).

He obviously was not sick so I did not let him stay. He missed the school bus on purpose so I drove him to school and he cried all the way there and when I tried to get him to walk into the school he started screaming and he would not get out of the car. I had to give up or I would have been dragging a screaming kid into class.
I tried encouraging him and he wouldn’t go and I wouldn’t let him watch any TV or play computer games at home until he would agree to go and I even tried to bribe him by offering to buy him a play station game if he would just go to school but he won’t. He won’t tell me what happened. I talked to his teacher and she has no idea what might have happened. He has never loved school but he has never had a real problem going before. Nothing like this at all…

I do not know what to do. Should I let him stay home for a while since he is so distressed by the idea of school? I don’t really know what choice I have. Should I take him to talk to someone? What kind of doctor should I consult for something like this? I am really at a loss about what to do!

Art Matthews Says...

School can be a very difficult place for kids. With cuts and overcrowding, it's hard for any adult to know what may be going on just under their noses. The reaction you describe is certainly troubling and indicative that something has changed rather rapidly in his life.

Any number of things may have occurred: he's experienced the beginning of puberty and is confused or scared, he may be experimenting with his body sexually, he may be being bullied, experiencing heavy peer pressure, he's done something he finds shameful or thinks you will, or he may even be being abused or harrassed. To start off, if he won't talk to you perhaps he would talk to another adult or an older sibling that he trusts and would not feel judged by. Ask him if he would like to talk to someone he's close to other than you. Young men find talking to mom about some personal issues very... unsettling.

Another option would be to take him to your family physician for a check up to rule out any physical causes of his behavior and so a medical professional can view for any signs of abuse. Depending on his comfort level with his doc, he might fight you on this too. If he doesn't have a male doc, it might be good to ask if there is one available for him to talk with (maybe even younger so he can identify more)

Another option would be to schedule a session with a counselor/therapist or psychologist who specializes in working with children. There are several different licenses to look for from Psychiatrist (MD/DO), Psychologist (PhD, PsyD), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), etc. Avoid Life Coaches or Personal Coaches for this. A mental health professional specializing in therapy with children can be located through your state's licensure and professional regulation board. Or you can contact your insurance carrier for options on their panel of providers.

I definitely would not just let him sit at home until this passes. He needs to see that he can face his fears and that there are ways to handle even the situations that are extremely threatening to us. Make sure to tell him that what ever has happened, it will not change your love for him and you will let him make as amany choices as you feel you can, but that his care is your responsibility so you have to have the final word. To keep trust with him, live up to what you tell him.

My very best to you and your son. Show him you can be strong as you face this together.

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Page last updated Apr 24, 2012

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