Source:  Psychiatrist, Dr. Leung Yuen Shan

Several months ago, a girl began refusing to go to school. Initially, it was just a reluctance to attend school, but after a few weeks, she started hiding in her room, experiencing issues with eating and sleeping. Later on, she became very irritable, had negative thoughts, and even had difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and started feeling anxious. She also couldn’t sleep at night and wanted her mom to be with her, but her mother had to work and couldn’t stay with her, so she sought medical advice. A child’s refusal to attend school is causing a lot of anxiety for many parents. Skipping school for a day or two may be acceptable, but not attending for one to two months can result in falling behind in studies, and the child may miss exams, potentially leading to grade retention. This is a problem that many parents find distressing.

In fact, not attending school is just a symptom, and the most important thing is to understand the underlying reasons. There can be several reasons for not attending school, such as social issues, bullying, shyness, academic problems, or attention deficit problems. Additionally, anxiety and depression could be bothering the child, and in some cases, it may go unnoticed for years.

If these issues are not addressed in a timely manner, they can build up, and the child may eventually become unable to cope and refuse to go to school. A child’s reluctance to attend school can also be linked to family issues, changes in family dynamics, or changes in the home environment as a way to seek attention.”

These various reasons could all lead to him not going to school. The most important thing for us is not to jump to conclusions and the next judgment. If parents point out directly that he is lazy, unwilling to face, and wants to avoid going to school, it will only put more pressure on the child. Instead, we should approach it with empathy and help the child gradually break down the issue. Many times, the difficulty lies in the fact that they may not be willing to speak out because they may not even know the reasons themselves. When you ask him, he won’t say, or he may answer that he doesn’t know, which can be challenging for parents. Parents should not give up in this situation, and they should not use a critical approach.

Parents must not excessively force him. Try to have a conversation with him in a friendly manner and guide him to reveal the underlying reasons and the specific challenges he faces. Because it is crucial to have this information, if you force him, he will shut down and not communicate with you, making it even more challenging later on. I’ve encountered many cases where parents tried everything to get their child to school, and when they finally did, the child blamed their parents for forcing them to go to school, which made them even more afraid later.

First, we should avoid using intense actions to force him and try to understand the reasons behind his behavior. If he starts to gradually open up and talk, that’s a good sign. But if you feel that it’s too difficult to get through to him, and he’s becoming increasingly resistant to going to school, that’s when we recommend seeking professional help to identify the root causes of the problem.