What to Do if your Child is Chronically Absent at School
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The causes of chronic ABSENCES - Episode 049
Will my child’s absences lead to jail time? This is a common fear amongst parents when they receive a letter from the school regarding truancy.
However, while the definition of truancy is absences without excuse, often there are many reasons students miss school.
Chronic absences usually are not as simple as they seem and may involve a lot of hidden issues. Today, I will be bringing forth these issues with Miranda Lamb, owner of the blog “Reluctant Cowgirl” and an advocate for families who have received court-ordered truancy cases.
This episode discusses a very important matter that impacts not only kids but their families as a whole unit. It is the problem of attendance or truancy.
How to Define Truancy
Miranda Lamb begins by explaining the kinds of cases she’s seen in relation to chronic absences. While in some cases, kids eventually drop out, in some other more severe ones, kids get into the habit of taking up activities during those free hours that might get them into severe trouble. It is easy to assume that these make up the bulk of the issue, but that would be the easy answer.
In this episode of School Counselor Gone Rogue, she reiterates that she has seen that many kids, who fell behind, and yet, were able to correct their behavior with help.
This is where we need to question the textbook definition of truancy. Absences cannot be solely due to an unwillingness to show up at school. A lot of the kids go through mental or physical problems which makes it difficult for them to attend school. We must also look at economic reasons for missing school as well as family relationships.
Even trouble at school like bullying can be a reason for kids for not wanting to attend school. So I question whether truancy is, in reality, “willful”.
Miranda Lamb, also brings up that truancy can be defined differently by each region and district. It is important for parents to research the laws in their areas, because while tardiness can lead to full absences - that is not always the case. Parents must read the handbook to learn the details specific to their child’s school.
What if the notice from school takes you by surprise? Well, we chat about how students have occasionally gone to great lengths to avoid the emails and calls home from school. Listen to the full episode for more!
Reasons for Truancy
There are four major reasons that kids are absent for a long period of time.
The first reason is when a teenager is the head of the house. Instead of the parents, the teenager decides their bedtime and makes their own rules. In such a scenario, the parents don’t enforce house rules.
In such cases, Miranda suggests parents establish some level of authority so that the teenagers know that they can’t set the rules at their own convenience. Parents should set proper house rules and take control while simultaneously taking away control from their kids. Miranda created a great resource for parents. Check out her family contract by clicking here
The second reason for truancy is when kids are being bullied in school Sometimes parents are surprised that their child is a victim of bullying. Kids tend to hide these situations from their parents so as to not be judged by or worry their parents.
Parents are highly recommended to talk to their kids about this and help them figure out the best way to deal with such a situation. Switching to another school or online homeschooling are some options to look at. However, an integral step is to get the issue out in the open and talk about it.
Mental or physical health might be the cause of absences from school. Students might require medical appointments or suffer from anxiety or depression that prevents them from regular attendance at school.
While this should be categorized under “Excused”, sometimes parents and kids forget to hand in doctor notes. If there is no note then the children’s chronic absence is seen as “Unexcused” until a note is received. Parents should make sure that the school is receiving the notes timely regarding such issues. They should also take note of the school’s make-up work policy regarding excused absences. If a student has a valid medical condition, often teachers will work with the student to catch up.
Finally, many kids just don’t like school and are bored.
This doesn’t excuse missing school, but it is something to explore with your child.In this episode, Miranda Lamb and I discuss the need for schools to highlight opportunities such as trade school, dual enrollment or work programs. These can help your child connect with their education in both more challenging and less traditional ways.
In addition, parents can get them involved in sports or music classes or even a part-time job that they are interested in, in order to make their free time more productive.
Chronic absences are a problem in schools but a child cannot fix this problem alone. Parents, teachers, as well as the school and court have important parts to play as well.
If you receive a truancy notice, don’t panic. Contact the dean of attendance and school counselor to find the next steps to solving the problem. If the court needs to step in, look for assistance in the way of an advocate – similar to the services that Miranda provides to families.
Listen to the full episode of School Counselor Gone Rogue by clicking above or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, I Heart Radio, Stitcher, Google Play or your favorite podcast platform. If you like what you hear – leave a review!
You can also sign up for the wait list for The Organized School Year at teampasch.com/theorganizedschoolyear. It’s an intensive workshop to help your child create and implement an organization system that meets their needs.
How anxiety, bullying and economics can lead to absences
What are the causes of chronic truancy
What happens if my child misses too much school
Tips to help your child attend school after a long absence
Miranda Lamb |The Reluctant Cowgirl| Group Facilitator
The Reluctant Cowgirl’s mission is to help moms, of tweens and teens, create an emotionally healthy home that is vibrant, full of respect and laughter. Miranda Lamb is a city girl living in the country. She is a wife, mom to a blended family and vibrant life mentor at The Reluctant Cowgirl. She has worked with hundreds of families as a group facilitator for court ordered groups.