As a therapist, I work with a lot of families who are having issues with teen truancy. Usually outward behavior issues are signs of inward issues. When a teen doesn’t want to go to school, I usually ask parents three questions. You can ask yourself the same questions to determine where you can go for help:
- Where are they at in comparison to their grade level?
Many times youth are bored because they fall below their grade level. They do not want to admit that they don’t understand the work or can not read the assignments. If you believe your child is behind, work with the school counselor or psychologist to run academic testing. Parents should also work directly with their teens teachers.
If your teen is determined to have a disability that could interfere with their education, such as ADHD, parents should work closely with the school to create an Individual Education Plan, or IEP. Required by federal guidelines, the IEP will describe how the student learns, how they demonstrate that learning and what the teachers will do to help the student learn more effectively.
An IEP team will be created, which includes the parents, and all will work together to ensure your teen understands, which will help motivate them to go to school.
2. Is there a possibility that they have ADHD? Here are some of the symptoms of ADHD to watch for.
Youth who have ADHD and have not been diagnosed, have troubles focusing in the classroom, and thus do not want to go to school.
- Has difficulty following instructions
- Has difficulty keeping attention on work or play activities at school and at home
- Loses things needed for activities at school and at home
- Appears not to listen
- Doesn’t pay close attention to details
- Seems disorganized
- Has trouble with tasks that require planning ahead
- Forgets things
- Is easily distracted
The child with ADHD who is hyperactive/impulsive will have at least 6 of the following symptoms:
- Runs or climbs inappropriately
- Can’t play quietly
- Blurts out answers
- Interrupts people
- Can’t stay in seat
- Talks too much
- Is always on the go
- Has trouble waiting his or her turn
If you think your child does have ADHD, you may want to consult with your family physician. I often recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as well because it teaches new behaviors around the ADHD. Locally, the Utah Parent Center holds classes to help parents of children with ADHD; a Spanish speaking class is even held at our Youth Services site. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – CHADD – is also a good resource.
3. Where is your child’s self esteem?
Many times without knowing our youth are suffering from low self esteem. They feel they can not be who or what they feel meet media standards. Youth feel that school is a waste of time because they don’t have any sense of self worth.
Common signs of depression include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Frequent crying spells
- Losing interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Feeling guilty, helpless or worthless
- Sleeping too much, or having problems sleeping
- Unintended weight loss or gain
- Feeling very tired all the time
- Having trouble paying attention and making decisions
- Feeling restless, irritated and easily annoyed (teens will show a lot of the irritability / anger)
If your teen is feeling depressed or overwhelmed, counseling may be a good option. You may also want to consult with your family physician. Youth Services therapists are clinically licensed and through counseling can help youth increase their self esteem and self worth. We can also refer you to other resources.
What other reasons have you found that youth don’t go to school? What resources have you found to be helpful? Share them here!