Your children and teens have to get an education. Not only is it the law, but the school offers them the ability to focus on their future while also learning valuable social and life skills.
But what steps should you and could you take if your teen is sluffing, or ditching, school?
It’s an expected behavioral milestone for teens to change their behaviors and attitudes as the teen years advance. They may begin to dress differently as they try to figure out their new identity; they’ll be snarky and rude.
There are limits to what is considered developmentally expected and something you need to address before it escalates further.
Changes in behavior
Has your teen started to behave in a way that’s entirely out of character for them?
If there haven’t been any clear triggers for the changes, it can prove confusing as you watch your teen transform into someone you don’t recognize.
Some of these changes could include:
- A poor and rude attitude to parents, siblings, teachers, and others they interact with.
- Losing interest in things that they once enjoyed.
- Angry or violent outbursts that are out of character.
- Withdrawing from family and friends.
- Drinking, smoking, or using other types of drugs.
Any new behaviors or changes should be something to pay attention to. Your teen may be struggling with more issues than they know how to communicate with you. Depression, anxiety, being bullied, being overwhelmed with schoolwork are among the countless factors that could be contributing to a change.
Changes in wardrobe choice
Teens are inclined to want to show their independent streak, and their choice of clothing can often reflect that. At some point, it may become a concern.
If your teen is dressing in clothing that’s too revealing or perhaps has a negative association, such is the case with a gang, it could be time to intervene. Particularly if the way they dress violates the dress code at school and is accompanied by a shift in behavior.
It’s not completely unexpected for a teen to express disinterest or disdain at school. High school brings a fresh set of challenges for teens, along with more homework and more pressure to do well.
Pretending to be sick once a school year may be excusable if you notice your teen is struggling. Many parents allow for a mental health day from time to time.
However, if your teen is deliberately skipping school several times a week or finds a way to skip out on classes once you’ve dropped them off at school, this will become a problem with the school authorities.
Once his grades start to slip, it can be challenging to get your teen back on track without serious intervention. It can also potentially lead to legal concerns for you as the parent.
Steps to take to keep your teen in school
What can you do if your teen is sluffing school and shows a decided lack of interest in his education?
It can feel overwhelming, frustrating and leave you feeling angry or resentful towards your teen. Before you do and say things that will only serve to make the situation worse for all involved, there are some steps that you can take to work towards a better solution.
Get advice, input, and help for yourself. There is plenty of truth to the cliché that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you aren’t prioritizing your mental health, you may struggle to cope with what your teen is faced with.
Speak to other parents and get guidance from counselors at school, teachers, and coaches. Most of them have seen this type of behavior in other teens, and it could prove to be a valuable resource for you and your family.
Find out from the school how often your teen has been skipping classes. Learn how far behind your teen is and if there is a plan that can help him catch up once he is agreeable to it. You will need to work as a team so that you are aware of what assignments are due. This will allow you to keep on top of his progress at home, and guide the types of consequences he should face for missing assignments and skipping further classes.
Get your teen into therapy. Counseling can offer several benefits for troubled teens who may not feel like they have anyone else to speak with about the things they’re struggling with. It can also help your teen to get to the bottom of what is leading to skipping school and changes in behavior and attitude.
Your teen may not even know why he’s behaving like this. Or it could be that he needs a safe space to discuss it while he works through it.
In some cases, you may find yourself needing to drive your teen to school every morning and ensure that you pick him up in the afternoon. This, along with communicating his whereabouts with his teachers, can help keep him accountable during the hours he needs to be in school.
Is a new school the answer?
In some cases, it’s a straightforward process to get a troubled teen back on track. In other cases, it might be a bit more complicated.
If your teen has been dealing with bullies in his school or has issues that his current school is not prepared or equipped to handle, you may need to consider switching schools. There are good odds that he will be receptive to the idea if he’s been struggling with concerns exclusive to that school and his peers.
The school district he’s in may have specific criteria for him to meet before he can qualify to switch to a new school. Work with school administrators to figure out what is needed so that your teen can get his life and education back on track.
If it appears that a school switch will not resolve his struggles, you may need to consider alternative options. A boarding school can offer your teen a fresh start in an environment that will provide him the structure, support, and focus needed to address the issues he’s been struggling with.
Many teens also find that getting away from the stressors at school with peers and bullies, along with a break from home life issues, can help them refocus on their education. Small classes and the opportunity to catch up could be the boost that your teen’s education needs.
As a parent, you want the very best for your teen. If none of the solutions you and his current school have tried help, it could be time to consider a boarding school. Whether for just a year or until he graduates high school, time spent in a boarding school can be life-changing in all of the right ways.