My Son Won't Go to School

My teen would rather sleep than go to school.

Posted Oct 23, 2011

Dear Dr. G.,

My 15 year old does not want to get up for school. He did this in grade 7 as well. I tried all I could,finally I had to pull him out of school and homeschool him to get the school off my back. They were not helpful. Last year in grade 9 he was back at school, first semester all went well. Second semester he missed so much school that the principal asked me to take him to the doctor who gave him a clean bill of health and referred him for counselling. A psychiatric report said nothing is wrong with him.
This semester he is in grade 10 and is beginning to miss a lot of school again.As usual, and the case in previous years, he won't listen to me about going to bed before 10:30 or 11 even midnight most nights and he is way too tired the next morning.
What can I do to help him gain a sense of responsibility to get up and be on time for school so he can succeed and we can avoid "fighting matches"most mornings to get him to get up?I tried to put the onus on him and not intervene and he sleeps until 10AM or later! Help!

An Exhausted Mother

Dear Exhausted Mother,

I certainly have a tremendous amount of empathy for you. You must feel at wit's end. After all, you have taken everyone's advice and it appears that you have gotten little help and support. I am truly sorry about that.

Often when our teens appear angry, lazy, or resistant to going to school they are dealing with lots of feelings that they are not sharing. It is possible that your son starts the year with a good attitude but as the work gets harder he gives up. Or perhaps he doesn't have friends at school and is lonely.

I have many questions:

1. Is he worried about anything at home?

2. Does he have a history of being bullied at school?

3. Have there been any major stressors in his life during the past few years?

4. Is he struggling with anxiety or depression?

5. What does he do during the day when he is not at school?

It is likely that he will not open up to you about these issues. And, as you know it's not as simple as telling him to "Go to school already like everyone else."
My suggestion is that you take him to a therapist who specializes in working with teens who have school phobia/avoidance problems. The therapist will work with you, your son, and the school to have your son gradually feel more comfortable about returning to school.

Your son is not the only one who deserves a good night sleep. You, too, deserve some rest and support.

Good luck.

Dr. G.