3 Questions to Ask When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Go to School

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:

  1. 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.

Symptoms of ADHDA child with ADHD who is inattentive will have 6 or more of the following symptoms:

  • 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:

  • Fidgety
  • 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:depressed teen

  • 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!


About jrdays59

I am a family therapist with SLCO Division of Youth Services. I really enjoy working with the youth. I started at Youth Services in Oct 2003 as an intern and then transitioned to an employee for Youth Services in Jan. 2005. I started as a case manager, moved to a supervisor position and then started doing full time family therapy in March 2008. I have an undergraduate degree from Weber State University in Social Work with a minor of Psychology. My graduate degree is from the University of Phoenix as a Masters in Counseling. I speak Spanish and serve many of our Spanish speaking clients. I really enjoy working with teens and their families!
This entry was posted in Family Counseling, Parenting Tips, Safe Place, SLCO, Teen Counseling, therapist, Truancy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 3 Questions to Ask When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Go to School

  1. Pingback: No Empty Seats Today! | The Youth Booth – Youth Services

  2. Landie says:

    My 15 year old daughter has depression – is on antidepressants. she doesn’t want to go to school anymore. she says counselling doesn’t help as it wont make her want to go to school. she cries every morning and says there’s no positive to concentrate on to make her want to go. she just has to sit there and suffer. she is a very clever child. it has now gone so far that i cannot concentrate at work any more as i am constantly worried about her.

    • jrdays59 says:

      The first thing to do is check with the doctor to make sure her antidepressants are working for her. The second thing needed to do is to concentrate on reducing the depressive symptoms and get some relief. The third step is to try therapy again. Sometimes it is the therapeutic relationship that is the issue not the therapy itself. A client should feel comfortable with their therapist in order to feel open enough to share his /her concerns and to get any relief. I recommend shopping around with your insurance providers until she feels comfortable with the therapist and hopefully then willing to open up about school issues or other issues she is feeling depressed about. The fourth thing is to talk to the school about an Individualized Education Plan more information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualized_Education_Program. The Utah Parent Center at http://www.utahparentcenter.org/can also help you set up an individual education plan. The schools can set up a plan that would work well for your child such as a later start time. And lastly a network of other parents and individuals for support can help with any anxiety or worry that you yourself are suffering.

  3. cara says:

    I absolutely believe in children with depression and am sympathetic to their plight. The issue Im having with my step son is that he is only “depressed” for school. He goes out all night, spends the night at his college girlfriends’ house, parties with his friends, plays lax, etc. etc., but come time for school……. down in the dumps. His mother goes right along with it. She calls him in and claims depression, but allows to play video games all night or go out as previously mentioned. He is in danger of failing several classes. His father and I very concerned, but have almost no say in his life. When his father has tried to consequence him in the past, the mother overrules. It is impossible to get the school to see this and to help us help him.

    • Carol Hendrycks says:

      Depression presents itself differently in everyone. It could be that the video games and hanging out with friends is his way of coping with the depression. Often times with depression obligations and responsibilities become overwhelming and difficult. Seek out the help of a counselor. You can find help for your college age student by calling 211 or checking with your insurance providers list.

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