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Teen asking for a day off school...

Think carefully before saying yes

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Over the last 18 months a regular discussion in my private practice work with young people is about school attendance. About 30% of students take more than 20 days off per year and anecdotally I hear about young people taking a regular day off school every week. As a parent I found this quite alarming and as a psychologist I understand this may help students with serious mental health conditions. However, a number of young people I hear about have just developed a habit of taking a day off to catch up on sleep, finish an assignment or just didn’t feel great so didn’t get there. In Australian secondary schools it is now reported that the average rate of student attendance is an ongoing concern. educators are working hard to put policies in place but as a parent there are strategies you use to help your teenager to attend school on a regular basis.

Research literature highlights that regular school attendance is important for good academic performance and the development of social skills and behaviours. School attendance problems often result in problematic behaviours as it can be associated with a higher risk of school dropout, lower academic achievement and increase the chance of mental health problems among young people. Research also confirms that once school absence begins this is likely to predict future issues with school absenteeism. Getting on top of an absentee problem with a young person early, is particularly important. The prevalence of mental health conditions in young people who take higher levels of days of school is significantly higher. If you have a young person at home, who is taking regular days off it is important to get support to understand the reason for absenteeism.

Below are questions to ask when your teen wants a day off school.

What is the reason for not wanting to attend? Reasons are often quite varied and need to be addressed before returning to school

Is one of their subject difficult or not engaging?

Do they have friends that they can hang out with or play games with online when at home?

What can help (for adolescents out of school less than 2 weeks)

Early intervention is vital to this not becoming a long-term problem, as a psychologist I recommend doing whatever it takes to get them back to school quickly.

  • Regular morning routine
  • Talking to the school regularly – school personnel will be able to help
  • Increasing supervision to ensure your teenager can get to school
  • Look at a graduated return, initially
  • Expect work to be done at home

Further strategies for adolescents out of school longer than 2 weeks

Adolescents and parents may need professional help if school absenteeism has been ongoing for more than 2 weeks. Help from a psychologist may include

  • Anxiety management
  • Parenting help
  • Problem Solving


The Reachout Parent website has an overview of communicating with the school

Help for parents

If this article has raised concerns about yourself or someone you know and you want to book an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists, please contact our friendly admin team by calling 08 7081 5855 or email us via our contact page.

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