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School Refusal And Your Child

According to Florida law, children are required to attend school. Sometimes, a child who is experiencing an unusually stressful situation refuses to go to school. School refusal, also called school phobia, is not a simple case of a missed day or two. School refusal can be a serious anxiety-related condition that emerges from a stressor either at school or at home, such as their parents’ divorce. If your child is unable or unwilling to attend school for a period of weeks, it might be necessary to intervene. 

When school refusal follows divorce 

Children tend to be deeply affected by the emotions of their parents. In a home that is in the throes of divorce or recently post-divorce, a parent who is suffering from normal levels of depression and anxiety might unintentionally spill some of these emotions onto their children. A child can easily sense a parent’s moods and, in doing so, can become anxious about the parent’s mental health. This can develop into a unique type of separation anxiety that results in a child’s refusal to leave the parent or attend school. A very young child might also unconsciously fear that if one parent left and the child leaves to attend school, the other parent might leave, as well. 

Other reasons for non-attendance 

While separation anxiety can lead to school refusal, there can be other explanations for a child’s lack of willingness to attend school. Before jumping to the conclusion that the child is anxious about the divorce, eliminate all other possible explanations, such as: 

  • Medical condition
  • Bullying at school
  • Trouble with friends
  • Learning disability 

To determine the root cause of school refusal, it is important to enlist the cooperation of teachers, school principals, school counselors and other parents. Also, never underestimate the wisdom and insight of your child’s closest friends and their understanding of what the trouble might be. 

Treating school refusal 

When you have eliminated other possible causes and it is clear that your child is suffering from separation anxiety in the aftermath of divorce, seek treatment from a qualified child psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders. 

A family law attorney at the offices of Sandra Bonfiglio, P. A. can provide a list of referrals to area mental health professionals. We are available to residents of Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and all of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, to assist you with all of your divorce-related legal needs.

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