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Blog, Light On Anxiety Expert Perspectives

Addressing School Refusal: A Comprehensive Approach To Help Your Child Return To School

By Debra Kissen

Increasing Rates of School Refusal Post-COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted children’s mental health and school attendance. Studies and reports indicate an increase in school refusal and truancy rates post-COVID. Some statistics include:

  • CDC Report: Mental health-related emergency department visits for children aged 5-11 and 12-17 increased by approximately 24% and 31%, respectively, during the pandemic.
  • AAP Report: A surge in anxiety and depression among children and adolescents, contributing to higher rates of school refusal.
  • NASP Survey: 75% of school psychologists observed an increase in school refusal cases during the 2020-2021 school year.

At Light On Anxiety, we understand that school refusal is a complex issue. It’s not just about a child not wanting to go to school; it’s a symptom of an underlying problem. Here’s how we tackle it:

Understanding the “Why”

The first step is to understand why your child is refusing to go to school. Is it because of bullying? Panic attacks in the cafeteria? Fear of not getting straight A’s due to perfectionism? Identifying the root cause is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan.

Collaboration with Schools

Support from your child’s school is essential. Schools can help create an action plan to ease your child back into the school routine. This might include:

  • A school staff member escorting your child to school in the mornings.
  • Allowing your child to take breaks from class if they feel a panic attack coming on.

There are many creative strategies to help your child manage distress and build the necessary tools and skills to handle life’s challenges.

Teaching Long-Term Solutions

It’s important for children to learn that avoiding problems is not a viable long-term solution. Running away from challenges only leads to more pain and suffering in the long run.

Light On Anxiety’s School Anxiety Program

Our School Anxiety Program offers a comprehensive approach to addressing school refusal:

CBT-Based Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach that helps children and adolescents manage their anxiety and develop coping strategies for school-related stressors. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to school refusal, enabling students to re-engage with their educational environment.

Medication Management

When appropriate, we provide consultation with a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication to help manage severe anxiety symptoms. Medication can be a valuable adjunct to therapy, especially for children and adolescents who struggle to make progress with CBT alone.

Parent Coaching Services

Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children through school refusal. Our parent coaching services provide guidance on how to respond to school refusal behaviors, establish consistent routines, and create a supportive home environment. We work with parents to develop strategies that encourage school attendance and reduce anxiety at home.


Addressing school refusal requires a multifaceted approach that involves understanding the underlying causes, implementing effective treatment strategies, and involving parents and schools in the process. At Light On Anxiety, our School Anxiety Program provides comprehensive support to help children and adolescents overcome school refusal and thrive in their educational environment. By utilizing CBT-based treatment, medication when appropriate, and parent coaching services, we aim to empower students and their families to navigate the challenges of school refusal and build a foundation for long-term success.

Dr. Debra Kissen is CEO of Light On Anxiety CBT Treatment Center. Dr. Kissen specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)...

Chat with a care manager to learn more about psychiatric medication management services.

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