If you are reading this, chances are high that you have just discovered that your teenager has started skipping classes. Without a doubt, your mind wanders to a million other places. Where are they going? What are they doing? Why are they not a school? Who are they with?
If you ask yourself these questions as a parent, you are not alone. Before the pandemic, roughly 8 million U.S. students fell into the category of chronically absent, meaning that they missed 10% or more of the school year, as reported by NPR. However, by spring 2022, this alarming figure had surged to approximately 16 million students.
When your teenager constantly skips school, it might not solely be a sign of truancy or indifference toward their education; it could indicate deeper underlying issues.
Unraveling the Motivations
There are many different motivations for your teen skipping school, so before you jump to any conclusions about them becoming a delinquent, it’s worthwhile first examining the causes:
1) Teachers aren’t engaged
Imagine a student who forms a close, personal connection with their teacher, engages in frequent conversations with them, and consistently receives constructive guidance and praise instead of criticism. A student like this is prone to foster trust, display better classroom conduct, engage more actively in learning, and attain higher academic achievements.
Positive teacher-student relationships engage students in their learning and ignite their intrinsic motivation, provided that the classroom content is engaging, age-appropriate, and aligned with student abilities. If students find that their teacher is lacking in making learning fun, they will likely develop boredom in class, motivating them out the door.
2) They don’t feel safe
Your teen may not feel safe in school because of the community. Negative school experiences—cyberbullying, friendship issues, or difficulty with learning, homework, or assessment tasks—can often devastate young people’s education.
Teens who experienced fear or felt unsafe due to cyberbullying were likelier to miss school days than other students, including those who’d experienced bullying directly but not online. In this case, skipping school is an act of survival, not rebellion.
3) Separation anxiety
School skipping can be associated with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, leading to long-term consequences threatening your teen’s well-being. For example, fear of losing one or both parents due to marital difficulties, illness, or knowing someone whose parents split or passed away.
4) Money issues
Numerous teenagers face significant pressure to generate income for their support or to help their families, whether it originates externally, such as from parents, or internally. Consequently, many adolescents begin employment at an early age. A desire for socializing doesn’t solely drive this but often results from prioritizing work over leisure activities, such as spending time with friends.
5) Peer influence
Instead of peer pressure, peer influence provides a better term to describe how teens’ behavior is shaped by wanting to belong to certain groups or peers.
Peer pressure and influence can be used positively. For example, your teen could be encouraged to be more assertive, participate in new activities, or get more engaged at school as a result.
However, this change can also have negative repercussions: some teenagers might become interested in activities they wouldn’t usually find appealing, such as doing risky things like skipping school.
6) Substance abuse
Drug or alcohol abuse is one of the primary reasons teenagers miss school, often because they want to limit how much of it they take so as not to get caught and cause issues later. Many try their best not to get caught using illegal substances because this could land them in legal trouble and result in suspension from classes.
Thus, they might skip classes rather than use drugs or alcohol on campus. Their peers, who also engage in substance abuse, often encourage and praise this behavior, leading them to view missing school as part of fitting in with their peers.
How to Motivate Your Teen
Motivating preteens and teenagers to attend school regularly can be achieved through straightforward yet effective methods. Here are some practical ways to foster their commitment to education:
- Engage Actively: Demonstrate your interest in their school experience by actively listening when they discuss their day or school-related matters. Ask questions like, “So, do we like this new English teacher? I know how you feel about Miss Smith moving to a new school.”
- Offer support: School is hard; we’ve all been there. Show your teen support by asking if they need assistance with schoolwork or homework. If your teen requires tutoring, but you cannot pay for it, urge them to search for free resources online with you, such as YouTube. It can be a fun bonding time.
- Link to Future Goals: Encourage them to consider how their current school work aligns with their plans, whether it’s further education or career aspirations.
- Participate: Engage actively by dedicating your time to school events like working in the canteen or assisting with fundraisers, thereby underscoring the value of education.
- Attend school functions: Being present in your teen’s life is extremely important. Please always try to attend school activities to demonstrate your involvement in their education.
- Family connectedness—belonging and closeness among families of all shapes and sizes—can protect young people’s well-being and mental health.
Young people require evidence of your genuine interest in their lives. Even if you do not reside with your teen, showing an ongoing curiosity in their daily affairs is critical to maintaining your bond and bonding successfully with them.
Let Us Help
If you’re facing challenges ensuring your teenager’s consistent attendance at school, putting in some extra effort can make a significant difference in keeping track of their whereabouts. Collaborating with your teenager’s school to establish a notification system in case of class absences can be beneficial.
However, if the issue extends beyond truancy and involves more severe concerns, especially if your teenager is involved in risky behaviors during school absences, consider exploring other interventions.
HelpYourTeenNow provides parents searching for a residential treatment center to address behavioral and emotional concerns in their teens, such as anxiety, school refusal issues, depression, or substance use disorders, with assistance in selecting one of these facilities.