by Shadra Bruce

The first day I left my kids at the Montessori preschool so that I could go back to school and finish my degree was heartbreaking. I’d been home with them since they were born, and while my older baby was 3 and could understand that this fun new place, my youngest was just shy of 18 months old. She cried when I left – and I got in my car and cried too. She cried every day for two weeks, unless the daycare provider held her in the rocking chair – which she did, every day, until Anika fell asleep. If it would not have been for her, I would not have returned to school and finished my degree, because I would have been a basketcase.

Now, the kids love school and are eager to be there. I hope that will continue into their teen years, but I worry. There are many kids who aren’t eager to be at school. While dropout rates have declined, and vary by state, race, and other considerations, it is a concern for many families and many schools. While there is an exception to every rule, most teens who drop out of school have virtually no backup plan. As parents, we need to make it clear that teens cannot lounge their life away and sometimes, tough measures are the only thing that will get this message across.

It’s useless to yell and scream at your teen. They’ll tune you out faster than anything. If your teen is skipping classes or not going to school, the first thing you should do is try to find out why. There may be reasons your teens are trying to avoid going to school that you have not considered. Your teen could be the victim of bullying that has become unbearable, or may be struggling socially. Your teen might also be struggling with learning; it is not unheard of for schools to let students slip through the cracks.

Adolescence is an emotional time for children and the pressure from school can make this difficult period of time even worse. If your teen has had a bad experience it could be a valid reason as to why they are not attending school. It may be heartbreaking to realize, but there might be problems that you cannot directly help with. Contact a school counselor or psychologist to help you help your teen.

If you feel like your teen is just being lazy or trying to avoid school, make your home a little less friendly. Of course you should still provide food, shelter, and love, but those are not the items teenagers “need” Eliminate social media of all kinds: no cell phone, no internet, no television, and no video games. If your teen is not attending school, they need to learn right away that all of the benefits of being responsible go away when they stop being responsible.

Make it clear that school is where your teen needs to be, and that any other choice your teen makes has a set of accompanying consequences.