Have you ever heard your teen say, “I don’t feel good…I don’t want to go to school”? Or “I’m not in the mood to go to school?” Or “I don’t feel like going to school today”? It is generally common for many teenagers to resist going to school from time to time. However, in the end they usually go.

They may have complaints about a particular teacher, not liking certain classes, or why they have to get up so early. Though these complaints may be true, there are other reasons that may have more significance to them. Many times there is a deeper issue that is prompting their behavior.

The concern comes when this resistance is ongoing day after day, week after week. A teenager refusing to go to school due to feeling over-stressed, sadness, or anxiety is call for our attention.

Let’s take a look into a few reasons for their refusal. Then, determine the signs underneath their behavior and attitude. Finally, what can be done to intervene?

Some Reasons Teenagers Avoid School

When a teen pushes back from going to school or insists on staying home, here’s a list of possibilities. These may include: anxiety, depression, being bullied or harassed, conflict with peers, difficulty socializing with others, not grasping certain school subjects, lack of purpose, struggle with identity, or trouble at home.


This is one of the most common and yet the reasons vary. For example, your teenager may have fears of not fitting in with peers or being judged or rejected by them. Also, they may have fear of failing in his/her classes, fear of failing or succeeding, fear of being around too many people (social anxiety), or worry about various things.


Another common malady teens may experience is depression. Reasons for depression may include rejection by a friend of family member, failing in school, conflict with a BFF, being angry about a relationship or situation, and grief. Grief may be due to loss or anticipation of loss.

Bullied or Harassed

These terms carry a lot of intensity, however, the interpretation and response by your teen is worth noting.  It is rather common for teens to joke around, or tease each other. However, it is more serious when your teen is threatened, intimidated, humiliated, physically pushed or grabbed. Further, slang words, slurs, coarse joking, or very suggestive or demeaning phrases towards them may trigger being mentally, emotionally or socially uncomfortable.

Conflict with Peers

Conflict is part of life yet may become overwhelming. There are disagreements, misunderstandings or even jealousy among peers. However, when there is a lack of healthy resolution in these conflicts, your teen may want to avoid school or peers altogether. Your teen may interpret the conflict as rejection or become self-blaming.

Difficulty Socializing

This seems to be more and more common with the “in person” interactions. Children, teens may be so immersed in a digital, social media world that real life experiences become awkward, intimidating or overwhelming. Your teenager may avoid school due to these in person interactions.

Not Grasping School Subjects

Many teenagers have their favorite subjects and those they don’t like so much. When the class subject (such as math, science, English, writing, or gym) is difficult to do or grasp, avoidance may occur.

Lack of Purpose

Many times a teen may have a “What’s the use” attitude and give up trying. Your teenager needs to have a sense of meaning, a purpose for living life. When they struggle with “fitting in”, looking to a better future, or finding hope for tomorrow, this is call for concern and intervention.

Struggle with Identity

Teens are coming out of childhood and beginning to develop more toward adulthood. They want to be different, yet “fit in” with their peers. Each of them are realizing their bodies, emotions, thoughts are changing, which may be scary, weird, yet curious. He/she are becoming more interdependent. They rely on their parents for the basics and friends for more socialization. Internal battles may occur in who they are, struggles with self-esteem, feeling grounded or safe which may affect their perception of themselves.

Trouble at Home

If there is tension at home or a fear of losing a parent, your teen may want to stay home. This may seem counter intuitive but if a family member is ill or depressed, the teenager may want to stay with them. They may take on a caregiver role and thus refuse to leave to go to school.

Signs to Look For

Here are a few signs that may bring concern and not all are related to your teen refusing to go to school. Learn more about what is their concern and investigate. There is a connection between how your teen feels and thinks and their physical well-being. Medical issues must be addressed by a medical professional.

  • Consistent refusal to go to school
  • Leaving home but not going to school
  • Frequently late for school
  • Needing multiple prompts to get ready or be prepared to leave
  • Extending the notion of being “sick” or “pretending” to be sick
  • Showing signs of being overly stressed such as nervous behavior, argumentative, crying spells, or certain physical complaints
  • Isolating from you or when at school isolates from others
  • Running away from home
  • Not completing homework
  • Constantly checking phone for posts or comments on social media
  • Expressed fear of being at school or around certain peers
  • Call or text you several times a day
  • Talk of being depressed, overly stressed about school
  • Comments about low self-esteem (for example: nobody likes me, I suck, everybody hates me, I’m a loser, and other such comments)
  • Go to the school nurse rather frequently

This is not an exhaustive list but being aware of them and seeing these patterns of behavior or attitude are signs your teen needs your attention and possibly counseling.

What Can Be Done

Reasons may not be obvious and frustrations may increase. Then, as a parent you may get upset with her or him. As a parent, being in control of your own self will better help address your teenager’s refusal to go to school and determine the root cause or causes.

  • Pause and reflect on your relationship with your teen. What might be the best way to approach him or her? If you have been rude or absent, apologize and seek to move forward
  • Seek to understand your teen’s point of view. Listen to the concerns.
  • Work to understand why your teen is resisting and address the issues at hand.
  • Avoid the “20 questions” approach but rather use the “help me help you” approach with love, care and compassion.
  • Seek possible solutions together
  • Explore solutions to what he/she share which may include school involvement

Overall, teens as well as we as adults have a longing to love and be loved, to be acknowledged, to be accepted, to share in life experiences with others. However, when concerns arise with your teenager and attending school, getting some help from a skilled counselor may be of great benefit.

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