Help! My Child Doesn’t Want To Go To School

You’ve been dreaming of this moment since the school holidays began. It’s the one thought that’s been getting you through – the day your child goes back to school or indeed starts school for the first time!  

That day has finally arrived.  

You breathe a sigh of relief… until you realise your child doesn’t want to go to school.  

Despite following the best advice to help prepare your child to return to school, they simply don’t want to go.  

One common reason for children not wanting to go to school is separation anxiety which can happen when children are: 

  • unusually worried and fearful to be away from parents, as they only feel safe when in their presence. 
  • worried about leaving a parent at home by themselves. 
  • not feeling like the world is safe outside of home and places that are familiar. 
  • intrinsically anxious, so going to school every day is already hard for them and so retuning after a long break or school holidays with little preparation time can be too overwhelming. 


Here are some other possible reasons your child may not want to go to school:   

  • worries or fears  
  • anxiety  
  • social difficulties  
  • learning difficulties   
  • bullying / online bullying  
  • problems with friends  
  • problems with teachers. 


School is usually a familiar place for children.  

When beginning a new school or going up a year level or indeed returning after having been home-schooled though most of 2020, school suddenly becomes a scary place or where your child needs to work themselves up to returning and engaging with others. 

As you prepare for school returning (or for your child’s first year of school) you may have noticed your child become distressed or other behaviour changes, at the thought of going to school. 

School refusal can also show itself through aggressive or highly passive behaviour. There can also be somatic complaints like headaches or tummy issues or other types of pain, which complicate things and it can be difficult to know if your child is genuinely sick or displaying a physical response created to avoid challenges or whether it’s a learnt behaviour. 

5 top tips to help your child face the start of Term

1. Show Excitement – Help prepare your child in the lead up to the first day of school by talking about some of the exciting things that happen at school. Perhaps have a special trip to get their books and stationery. 
2. Open Communication – Start asking questions about how your child feels about going to school and let your child know it’s okay to feel uncomfortable, reflecting that it can be hard to attend.
3. Area Familiarisation – Have a few trial runs of going to school and have a look around the school grounds to help connect to the school environment.

4. Get Help – Book a session with one of the clinicians at Melbourne Edge who can offer tailored and practical strategies to implement. 

5.  School Wellbeing Teams If needed, talk with the school wellbeing team around the possibility of a gradual return to school. and other support available. 

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