Children's Hospital Colorado

School Anxiety and Refusal in Children (S1:E25)

When a child refuses to go to school it's easy for parents to become confused and frustrated. They may even make an appointment at their child's primary care provider's office for advice and guidance. Anxiety about school is common. When faced with mild school refusal, some parents need to hear a medical provider say that it's completely safe to send their child back to school because it's in the child's best interest.

However, school phobia can also indicate underlying mental health issues. Pediatricians must complete thorough assessments to understand the underlying reasons behind avoidance behaviors. Once there is a baseline level of understanding, treatments can be crafted to help these kids become functional and resilient adults.

Listen to a pediatric psychology expert discuss what to do when a child refuses to go to school

Our guest for this episode of Charting Pediatrics is Jessica Malmberg, PhD, the Clinical Director of Outpatient Services at the Pediatric Mental Health Institute.

Dr. Malmberg talks listeners through the common behavioral issue of school refusal in children and provides advice and tools to help prevent, manage and understand this behavior. She is dedicated to empowering families to help their kids with emotional and behavioral difficulties, and her insights are valuable to both pediatricians and parents.

In this episode, our expert:

  • Outlines and identifies the underlying symptoms and signs associated with a child refusing to attend school.
  • Explains how primary care providers can most effectively assist and assure parents who are experiencing guilt.
  • Identifies the four most common reasons that children refuse to go to school.
  • Explores the effects of social media on children's behavior when it comes to school refusal.
  • Explains how a pediatrician should approach the treatment of school refusal.
  • Shares the recommended frequency of follow-up care for kids who are refusing to go to school.
  • Explores the importance of connecting parents to community-based resources.
  • Explains preventative practices parents can set up in the home to prevent this behavioral issue.
  • Outlines what an excellent prognosis looks like for children experiencing school refusal.
  • Explains when it's time for the primary care provider to refer to a mental health professional.

Resources for dealing with school refusal

Dr. Malmberg shares a number of helpful resources during today's podcast episode. We encourage listeners to review them to learn how to best help children experiencing school phobia.

Helping children and their families cope with school anxiety at Children's Colorado

Families who have a child struggling with school anxiety will be welcomed by our Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, a clinic within the Pediatric Mental Health Institute. Mental health experts work with parents and children to develop an individualized, family-centered and evidence-based treatment plan. Refer a patient to Children's Colorado.