Ashley Hale, LCSW – Dec. 10, 2019

Encouraging regular school attendance is one of the most powerful ways you can prepare your child for success in school and in life.   An estimated 5 to 7.5 million students miss 18 or more days of a school year, which averages two days per month. 

Some challenges are unavoidable, such as illness or family emergencies.  However, it’s important to be aware of the impact absences from school can have, especially if they are frequent.  

Having good attendance sets your child up for a strong future by assisting them with better grades, healthier life habits, the ability to avoid dangerous behaviors, feeling more connected to the community, developing important social skills and friendships, and giving them a better chance for graduation.

You can help your child prepare for a lifetime of success by teaching them to make school attendance a priority.  If your child is struggling to attend school, the first step is to understand the depth of the problem, whether physical or emotional. 

There are many common reasons children do not want to go to school, such as academic struggles, trouble with bullies, family separation anxiety, and family challenges at home. It can be difficult to understand why some children avoid school or do not want to leave home.

The following are some ways you can help eliminate chronic absenteeism:

  • Make getting to school on time every day a high priority. Make it an expectation. Talk with your child about the importance of showing up to school every day as well as the negative effects of too many absences.
  • Create a safe space for your child to share what is keeping them from participating in school on a regular basis. Find out if your child feels engaged in their classes and feels safe while at school. Be aware of their social contacts. Peer pressure can often lead to skipping school, while students without many friends may feel isolated. 
  • Have a back-up plan for getting your child to school when there are difficulties with transportation, family illness, or other challenges.
  • Schedule doctor and other appointments for after-school hours whenever possible.   Don’t let your child stay home unless truly sick. Common occurrences of headache or stomach ache may be a sign of anxiety.
  • Monitor your child’s school attendance to make sure they are in class every day. 
  • Contact your child’s school to discuss support services that can help them maintain regular school attendance. Know the school’s attendance policy. Talk to their teachers if you notice sudden changes in behavior and ask them to contact you if they notice changes. 
  • Encourage your child to participate in afterschool activities, including sports and clubs. Being involved in extra-curricular activities is a great way to feel more involved in the school and to make new friends.

As a parent, you are on the front line of an attendance problem. The good news is that it is possible to change things for the better and increase the chances for success.