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Teens Who Refuse to Go to School or Work

by Scott Thompson

A teen who resists going to school or work is not necessarily just being lazy. He may be suffering from some type of mental or emotional problem, or he might be trying to avoid a bad situation he doesn't know how to deal with. The only way to find out what's really going on is to talk with your teen.

School Refusal

Some children resist going to school in the morning by not getting up on time for the bus, claiming to be sick or throwing temper tantrums every day. According to the Child Study Center website, this pattern of behavior is known as "school refusal" and is most common before the age of 13. Although teenagers don't throw temper tantrums like younger children, they may also try to resist going to school or may cut class once they're there. Teenage school refusal behavior can happen at any age but is most common during the difficult transition from middle school to high school.

Social Problems

If your teen seems to be coming up with every excuse in the book to avoid going to school, it might be because he's scared of what will happen when he gets there. Your teen could be dealing with a bully or with an upsetting personal problem with his friends or with a teacher. In areas with gang problems, he may be facing pressure of some kind from gang members. If he's starting to feel overwhelmed and falling behind on his school work, he could be trying to avoid taking a test or handing in a paper. Whatever the situation, it's important to find out what he's scared of so you can help him with his problem. It's also important to establish clear consequences for failing to go to school, such as losing video game time or other privileges.

Anxiety and Depression

If your teen complains of stomachache, nausea or headache at school or frequently stays home sick or leaves school early because of these symptoms, the problem may be psychological. According to the Child Study Center site, teens suffering from depression, an anxiety disorder or a social phobia can experience emotional distress in the form of physical symptoms. If you think your teen may be experiencing a psychological or emotional problem severe enough to interfere with her schoolwork, consult a professional.

Work Refusal

A teen who refuses to go to work may be dealing with bullying or harassment from coworkers or supervisors or may be suffering from depression or another emotional problem. An older teen boy who seems to have little or no motivation to go to school or work may be showing signs of "failure to launch," a pattern of behavior in which young men fail to make the transition to independent adulthood. Failure to launch is a widespread problem among young men, according to experts cited in a 2011 Associated Press article on the phenomenon. In some cases, failure to launch may be caused by a perceived lack of economic opportunities.

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