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(908) 500-7295 - 236 West High Street, Bound Brook, NJ 08805

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A New School Year

With college students back to their dorms and children and adolescents back to school, the school year has officially started.

In a few weeks I will start receiving calls from concerned parents, school guidance counselors, and a few college students about emerging issues with school related matters such as attendance, school and class anxieties, truancy, and school refusal. There will also be a few calls about possible eating disorders.

Teachers and teacher aides also come to therapy when they seek assistance dealing with difficult colleagues, principals, administrators, challenging students, and demanding parents. Teachers, by the way, are great in therapy-they are so committed to being their best at what they do and improving themselves.

So what is the difference between school refusal and truancy? In the eyes of the school, not much, since in both cases the end result is that the child does not attend school. With truancy, it is because the adolescent does not like school, may be angry, and is adverse to attending. Usually, there is some kind of issue with either the school, a teacher, a classmate, or a dislike for school work (which often is due to feelings of inadequacy or boredom). Truancy is a form of acting out behavior which is a red flag for an underlying issue. At times, truancy is a sign of problems in the home. When an adolescent cuts class or skips school, it is usually without the parents' knowledge and consent. They may be abusing drugs, suffering from an eating disorder ( which makes lunch time unbearable), or socializing with the wrong crowd of friends.

With school refusal, the reason the child does not attend school is typically due to fear of some aspect of school or fear of leaving a parent. It may be bullying, fear of failure, fear of any number of things associated with school, or fear of being away from a parent during school hours. Often in the latter case, the child has some fears for the parent's or his/her own wellbeing and safety. Occasionally, a child has an anxiety disorder or other issue that precludes their attending school that is unrelated to the above. For example, a child with claustrophobia or an eating disorder may avoid school. School refusal is frequently associated with physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, etc., along with chronic tardiness, leaving school early, and a high number of absences. When children are in the midst of their parents' divorce, they may have issues with school attendance that are symptomatic of their emotional turmoil from the impending divorce.

The good news for truancy, school refusal, child and adolescent anxieties, and eating disorders is that with the help of a professional, the issues can be resolved, I often work with the family and the school to make special arrangements that will enable the child to comfortably return to class. In the case of truancy, it is important to listen to the adolescents concerns and work with them in addressing what underlies the truancy.

In the case of divorcing parents, it is essential that the child's emotional needs are addressed to facilitate a comfortable return to school. Since children cannot always express those needs in words it comes out in their behavior. Therapy is very effective in helping children through their parents' divorce.

If your child or adolescent is showing signs of school refusal, anxiety, or truancy, please give me a call or send me an email to discuss how I may be of assistance. 908-500-7295

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