What to do when your child is giving up on school — a practical (and reassuring) guide

anxiety lights on® whole family transformation Sep 01, 2021

School doesn’t suit all kids. But it often feels like there’s no other option for struggling families but to keep at it.

If you’re at a loss deciding what to do when your child is giving up on school, know that there are actionable strategies you can employ to make things better.

It starts by discovering whether your child’s lights are switched on – or off.

How can you tell if your child’s lights are switched on or off?

You probably have a gut feeling about your child’s engagement with school and excitement to learn.

But it can be useful to have things down in black and white when making big decisions about your child’s education.

Lights on

Here’s what some of our families have said about their “lights on” kids.

“Lights On means you are mentally and creatively being powered up!”

“Your mind is flowing with creativity and ideas.”

“You are motivated to learn, open-minded and like a sponge for absorbing new information.” 

“You are feeling positive and ready to embrace the challenges of the day.”

When a child’s lights are switched on they are motivated and communicative. They can talk about their emotions and feel comfortable being themselves. They cope well with challenges, opportunities and risk. And, you can see it in their eyes - it’s like their lights are literally on! 

Lights dimmed

When lights are dimmed, children tend to be passive and bored. They might not be failing at school but they’re not realising their full potential either.

Parents often feel there is a disconnect between what a child is capable of doing and what they are actually achieving.

Lights off

When a child’s lights are switched off they can be tired and apathetic. They feel angry and may direct that anger at their parents or themselves. They have lost their curiosity and their excitement for both learning and life.

At school, this might mean they are succumbing to peer pressure and getting into trouble in class. This can become a vicious circle, with your child feeling less and less inclined to engage with their education.

What to do when your child is giving up on school: actionable strategies

If you feel that your child’s lights are dimmed or switched off altogether, you’ve probably spent many sleepless nights wondering what you can do to help them.

You hope that your support and words of encouragement will help them to see their schooling from a new perspective. Or perhaps that they’ll manage to figure it out for themselves.

Having hope is important. But relying on it will only get you so far. If you want to make real and lasting improvements to your child’s learning journey, you need a comprehensive strategy for action.

Depending on how your child is feeling, behaving and currently engaging with school, you might want to take one of the following options.

First and foremost, focus on their mental health 

As is becoming increasingly apparent, the mental health of our children is an incredibly important and often overlooked aspect of their learning capacity.

Mental health should sit at the forefront of any educational strategy. Because if children don’t feel good, they just can’t learn effectively.

That’s why Lights On®’s own transformative framework prioritises mental wellbeing.

If you feel your child is struggling with their mental health, the following ideas may help.

  • Listen and encourage them to talk about their feelings
  • Help them express the thoughts they are having about themselves
  • Ask them about what they believe about themselves 

Overall, it’s what a child believes about themselves, as a learner, that really counts. This is why we use an inside-out strategy to get children back on track in school. 

Then, take some time out of school

Taking your child out of school for a spell may seem like a drastic course of action. But it can really make a difference to their engagement.

It’s important to listen to your child. If they consistently cause a fuss when it’s time to go to school, delve into the root causes. Also, ask yourself what your priorities are for your child’s education.

By removing them from the stresses (or boredom) of the classroom for a short time, they can get a renewed perspective on what learning is really all about and return to their school feeling ready to learn.  

Opt for flexi-schooling

Flexi-schooling is a blended approach. It involves dropping some classes but still attending school for part of the week.

Flexi-schooling is legal in the UK but it’s at the discretion of headteachers. You’ll need to prove to school leaders that part-time attendance is in the best interests of your child.

Take a look at this document, detailing my top strategy for securing a successful flexi-learning agreement with your school.

A flexi-schooling approach helps to put your child back in the driving seat on their learning journey.

With some parental support, they can use home learning days to explore topics that spark their curiosity. It’s a real opportunity for your child to follow passion-led learning which reconnects the head with the heart. And, they can delve deeper into subjects they like, without being expected to keep pace with the rest of the class.

Flexi-schooling is something I discovered many years ago when my own daughter was struggling with the school experience. I needed to flex the educational system to make it work for my family. And that’s what we now help other families do through Lights On®.

Make an emergency exit from school

If school just isn’t working for your child at this moment in time, question whether it’s the right environment for them. 

An extended six week period away from school could be just what your child needs. It also gives you the time to pursue a strategy that gets their lights back on. 

Forcing them to stay at school when they’re switched off will only reinforce their fear, anxiety and anger – making it harder to get their lights switched back on in future. Take the right action now and you can nip problems in the bud.

Moving forward with Lights On®

When you feel your child is giving up on school, you may find yourself going over the same worries and arguments again and again. But this doesn’t get you any closer to helping your child.

Figure out whether your child’s lights are on or off, and you’ll find it easier to implement the right solution.

So stop and take stock. And make use of the excellent tools and resources available through the LightsOn® programme. With our help, you can find the root causes of your child’s disengagement and reintroduce them to the wonder of learning.



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