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Help! My son is refusing to go to school


Dear Life Coach,

I am a single mother with a 10-year-old son. Over the past two weeks, my son has been refusing to go to school; whenever I wake him to get ready for school, he tells me that he does not want to go to school. So now, my mornings are a nightmare because of his constant fussing.{{more}} By the time I drop him off, we are both late. My job is very demanding, so I have not been able to visit his school. Before this, he was fine. When I asked him if he has been in a fight or in trouble with his teacher, he said no. Yet, he insists that he does not want to be in school anymore. I am very concerned.

Single Mom (SM)

Dear SM,

Thanks for your email. I am so sorry your son is not happy with school.

Your Situation:

Several factors are at work here: school refusal and possibly: bullying, trauma/abuse, learning difficulties, health problems, inadequate sleep/nutrition, problems with the teacher, drug use, among others. I will address these briefly:

School Refusal

School refusal during middle childhood is not normal and is a reflection of other underlying problems, which may result from the following:


Bullying is any verbal or physical behavior that is intended to disturb someone who is less powerful. Children may be bullied daily because of their appearance, speech, clothing, just to name a few.


Children who have experienced traumatic experiences, such as surgery, death of a loved one, separation from a parent, or abuse etc. are likely to refuse school.

Learning Difficulties

Learning difficulties occur when a child has problems with learning that involves understanding or using spoken or written language. A child may refuse to go to school if he/she is not understanding the lesson. See more on this at:

Health Problems

It is important for every child to have a yearly physical examination in order to prevent and/or treat childhood diseases. A child is likely to refuse school if he/she is not feeling well or has been exposed to drug use.

Inadequate Sleep

Children in middle childhood need 10 to 12 hours of sleep daily, in order to maintain their health and feel energetic. Sleep deprived children are usually sleepy, bored, unable to concentrate, feel sick, look dull and are irritable.

Inadequate Nutrition

Proper nutrition is important for the health of children, since their bodies are still developing. Poor nutrition can result in iron deficiency, causing children to feel tired and sick each day.

Problems at School

It is possible for a teacher to make a child’s school experience miserable by picking on him/her or being unnecessarily harsh. It is also possible for a child to be turned off from school by a teacher’s attitude.

What to Do

Talk with your Child

Ask your son if he is feeling sick or if something happened at school that is causing him to refuse to attend. Ask specific questions about his day, e.g. what happened in class, at lunch etc. Tell him that it is okay to talk with you about anything, even things that seem bad.

Talk with Other People

Sometimes adults or other children at school or in the neighborhood are aware of things that have happened, such as bullying or other school incidents. Subtly asking questions may prove to be helpful.

Visit School

It may be important to visit your son’s school and talk with his teacher about his behaviour and performance. Make this a priority.


Think of any event in the recent past that your son may experience as traumatic, e.g. your being away for several days to attend a workshop; other major changes in the family or in your activities.

Learning Difficulties

Consider having your child screened for learning disabilities if his grades are low, or if he shows disinterest in doing homework. Talk with his teacher or the principal about having your son tested.

Physical Examination

If the problem persists, take your child for a complete physical examination to rule out any health concerns, including vision, hearing, dental and possible drug use.

Adequate Sleep

Ensure that your child gets 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night; your son should be in bed by 8:00 p.m.

Adequate Nutrition

Ensure that your son eats a balanced meal three times a day (fruits, vegetables, meats, and ground provision, etc.). Pack a nutritious lunch for him.

SW, school can sometimes be demanding on children; hopefully, the problem will be resolved soon.

Life Coach


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