A new school year can be the perfect time to start fresh, with a clean slate. You and your family may be energized and ready to tackle anything that comes your way. Alternatively, the prospect of the year ahead may be unappealing or downright daunting. These feelings can be expressed in many ways, and for some teens may include a reluctance to return to the daily school routine.
Although a certain lack of enthusiasm for returning to school is to be expected (especially after a twomonth break!), it is wise to keep an eye out for signs something more may be going on. Watch for:
- Persistent negative, concerned comments about returning to school, or about school in general.
- Avoiding or putting off making any preparations for school.
- Lack of contact with friends.
- Change in behaviour and / or mood.
- Skipping classes, frequently running late and / or increased illnesses and days off.
- Loss of motivation regarding schoolwork or extra-curricular activities.
School reluctance can easily turn into school refusal. The more days a student is absent, the harder it becomes to catch up on work and re-integrate with classmates and studies upon return.
It’s important for you to raise your concerns and give your teen an opportunity to address any problems or barriers to their engagement at school. Common reasons teenagers disengage from school include issues around friendships (including, but not limited to, bullying), academics, teachers, family, logistics, subject selections, and the overall “feel” of the school.
Remember, you and your family are not alone in this, and many people are willing and able to help, including:
- The school. This should be your first point of call. A two-way conversation with the year advisors, teachers, school counsellors / welfare officers, and / or school executive will help clarify any issues and assist in developing a plan for re-engagement.
- External counsellors. Your teen may regard an external counsellor as a more independent and unbiased source of support. They may assist in identifying problems and reasons for disengagement and provide strategies for moving back to regular attendance. An external counsellor can also act as an advocate for your teenager with other agencies (including the school).
- Home liaison officer. This support is offered by Public Schools NSW (Education and Communities) and is available when schools have been unsuccessful in getting a young person to re-engage, despite various attempts to address a students’ absence.
Whilst leaving or changing schools should be seen as the last option, it may be a possibility to consider. Some people are just not suited to certain institutions, and in a different environment a previously bored or anxious teenager will thrive and blossom. It is all about keeping communication channels open, providing encouragement, and exploring possibilities!