Teenagers are a mystery. Most of us look back on our teen years and it seems like a distant memory. When the time comes to parent our own teens, it can be tricky to remember what it was like when we were that age. Some teens sail through those years, while others have a tougher time. If they don't like school, then it can be an incredibly rough period.
Some young adults complain about everything, from the people they have to socialize with to the "pointless" lessons they have to endure. To them, everything about their education is a chore. As parents, dealing with a negative attitude toward such a vital time in our child's life isn't always easy to counter - especially if they outright refuse to attend. We all know that grades can slip at the drop of a hat, and no one wants that. Here are five tips to try if your teen is refusing to go to school.
Don't make assumptions. Teenagers can be harder to figure out than a puzzle in a Dan Brown novel, but try not to jump to conclusions. Your son or daughter might say that they hate their classes, when in reality, they really don't want to admit that they've fallen behind and they're worried about making progress. Although it might seem as though as it's a black and white situation, it's often the opposite. Try and open up the line of communication and let them know that no matter what the issue, it's safe to tell you.
Think about your own attitude. Every parent wants their child to do well in school to set the foundation for a bright future, but sometimes we can over do it. It's tempting to micro-manage everything from the homework to soccer practice, but it can have the opposite effect and make teenagers feel restricted. According to Daniel Wong, teens can easily feel pressured if we force or talk to frequently about the importance of school. Although we mean the best, our actions can have negative consequences.
Don't use threats. Parenting can be incredibly frustrating, and most of us have used threats as a last resort. Warning them that they will risk having their cell phones or games consoles taken away if they don't comply may get limited results, but in reality, you're just coercing teens into behaving in the way you want them too, and this doesn't get to the root of the issue. The older kids get, the less likely this is to work. Even if it gets them to school, it's not dealing with the root of the issue. Instead, ask open questions and be honest about your own experiences. If there were times when you didn't want to go to school, let them know about it. Teens often forget that we were there once.
Acknowledge their achievements - however small. If your teen is chronically absent from school despite your best efforts, it can be difficult to give them praise. However, encouragement can go much further than punishment in some cases. Devise a plan that sees your child gradually integrating back into the school community, and praise them every step of the way, while also making plans to improve on their progress. Most children want to know that their parents support them, and some need a little more than others. Anything from an on-time piece of homework to arriving at school on time should be positively acknowledged.
Talk to the parents of their friends. If your teen isn't opening up to you about the root of their issues, then try reaching out to the parents of their friends. Their child may have spoken about an event that is key to unraveling the puzzle, or simply have similar concerns of their own. They might need the conversation as much as you, and at the very least you'll get to swap notes on parenting teens and all of the trails and tribulations that come along with it.
Most importantly, if you feel like you need further support then keep an open line of communication with your child's school. You won't be the first parent to have these issues, and you certainly won't be the last. School boards have practices in place for events such as this, and will be able to help you get things back on track.