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My Son Has Been Skipping School


​​​​​My son has been skipping school and is chronically late when turning in his homework. I don't know what to do. We have tried both disciplinary and incentivizes, but nothing seems to work.


Skipping School

There are a multitude of reasons kids can give as to why they don't want to go to school. Ask yourself what reasons your child would have for displaying his behavior. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Kids can become increasingly stressed due to a recent move, a change in routine at home, a loss of a loved one, etc. Major life changes like these can cause a child to not want to go to school or be away from the familiarity of home or family.

  • Mental health issues play a big part in school absenteeism. Depression and anxiety are two common mental health issues that can bring on extreme fatigue, fear, or inability to concentrate.

  • School issues can also be cause for your son not wanting to attend classes. If he is being bullied, if there is a lot of friendship drama in his friend group, if he's frequently getting into trouble, or if he's struggling academically, then staying home is one way to avoid the unpleasant situations.

  • Substance abuse can interfere with the desire to attend school. It can make a child lethargic, paranoid, and ultimately unable to perform at school. Substance abuse can lead to insomnia, restlessness, and, in some cases, extreme fatigue. Thus, further hindering a child's ability to perform at school.

    Sometimes, substance abuse can lead to erratic, risk-taking behavior, such as skipping school or cutting class. In this case, kids will either skip school entirely or skip out during the middle of the day. They might do this for a few reasons: They want to do something they couldn't otherwise do at school, they give in to peer pressure, or they simply don't want to sit through classes and do homework.

  • Technology is an issue that we, as crisis counselors, have heard more and more about over the last few years. It can cause psychologically addictive behavior in teens and young children. Kids stay up all night playing on their devices, they wind up on inappropriate sites, they either bully or get cyberbullied, the list goes on. Today's kids practice virtual social skills more than physical, face-to-face conversations, and this can leave them feeling isolated and lonely because their eyes are always on their tablets, computers, or cellphones rather than a physical, living person in front of them. 

You mentioned that you've tried disciplinary actions with your son. These are most likely to work if they are meaningful to him. If his behavioral problems have been going on for some time now, then you may need to identify other actions that might encourage him to change his behavior. Also, if his privileges are taken from him for an extended period, he may entirely lose the will to perform, so develop a specific plan for how he can earn back his privileges over time.

Keep open communication with your son's school. When he won't go to school and does not have reason to be staying home, report it to the school administration as an unauthorized absence. Schools must track attendance because the county attorney will dictate what a child must do once they've missed a certain number of school days. Parents receive notice in writing when their child is nearing the point in which the county attorney will get involved.

Notifying the school is a form of protection for you as the parent because it lets the school and the county attorney know that you are aware of the absences and you don't approve them. If you haven't asked yet, ask your son's school whether they have a truancy officer who will come to your home and bring your son to school. Some parents even enlist the help of a police officer to transport their children. 

One final suggestion: Check whether your school district has any programs or agencies that work with families to ensure better school attendance. These could prove to be invaluable assets for helping break your son's behavior. ​