Handling Truancy with your Teenager

Are you having issues getting your teenager to school? You are not alone. There are many parents and carers in the same boat as you. Teenagers tend to want to wag school, opt out of homework for facebook and start adulthood early.

You may even hear the familiar “well my friend’s mother lets them stay home.” How can you as a parent instill the importance of getting an education with a child that refuses to go to school? First and foremost understand that it’s the law to attend school. Teenagers are given many choices but school attendance is not a choice. Parents and carers can face legal ramifications if their children refuse to attend. So the question is, how do you encourage the importance of schooling and keep yourself out of legal consequences at the same time? Here are some things you can do.

Firstly Talk To Your Teen
Take them to McDonalds or someplace else on their own turf and start engaging with them. Some issues they’re struggling with may be brought to light over a cheeseburger and some fries. They may be feeling jealous of other kids because they don’t have the clothes or electronic devices that other students have.

Be Your Child’s Private Investigator
As a parent take on the private investigator role and try and piece together why your child doesn’t want to go to school. For instance, are they being bullied? Are they finding certain classes hard or are they failing in certain subject’s that’s causing some embarrassment? Do they have friends or are they finding it difficult to make friends? These are some of the vital questions that need to be investigated because for every action there’s a reaction and that’s what your seeing in your child. There’s a reason that’s not been brought to the surface yet.  Schoolyard bullying is also another issue and teenagers tend to keep this problem hidden from their parents as it can cause some embarrassment. All schools experience these attendance issues with their students but there a big difference between skipping some classes and wanting to drop out of school altogether. If the latter is the case then this is possibly is a legal issue combined with something else as previously discussed. Talk to the school staff to find out if they know what’s going on in with your teen. Just because you haven’t received a call, a letter in the mail, or an email doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem.

Explain the Law to Your Teenager
Children do not commit a criminal offence by not attending school, but in the Australian Capital Territory the Court hearing the charge against the parents, if satisfied that the child is a truant, can place the child on probation or order the child’s detention in an institution (Section 18 Education Act 1937 (ACT)). Similarly, care and protection laws in South Australia have non-attendance at school as a ground on which a finding may be made that a child is in need of care and protection. Thus, for children in South Australia or the Australian Capital Territory, truancy may be a route into the care system.

In the Northern Territory and Tasmania, the state Department of Community Services might intervene on the grounds that a child refusing school was not under effective control. Likewise, in New South Wales children of compulsory school age who are not at school can, if seen in a public place, be required to give their name and details to the police or an attendance officer and there are sometimes additional powers to take the child home or to school (see Section 122 Education Reform Act 1990 (NSW)).
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, then a teen must be in school every day.

Present the Facts To Your Teenager
Sometimes, teenagers need to be presented with the facts to see things more clearly. For instance, The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) report, sponsored by financial services company AMP, backs the underlying message of the Gonski review of school funding that high-quality education leads to better levels of employment and earning capacity.

According to the NATSEM report, someone who has a bachelor degree is likely to earn about $2.9 million over their lifetime. That compares with $2.07 million for someone who has a year 12 qualification or just $1.74 million for a person whose highest level of education is year 11. It’s easy to see what a quality education can do to help finances in life but teenagers cannot foresee this. If a teenager is determined to skip school and wants to drop out, then you should try and present them with these facts. No one wants to live from paycheck to paycheck and always scraping by. The difference in a good quality education can be explained by whether you want to own a small economy car or a luxury sports vehicle. Put these facts in terms that they can understand.

Don’t Allow Them To Be A Couch Potato
Can you recall your teen years? If you were like most, you wanted to go out and party then sleep all day. Don’t allow your children to become proverbial couch potatoes while you pay the bills. Let them know quite succinctly that if they don’t want to go to school that they will get a full-time job which means waking up at 5 or 6am on a cold the morning. Many parents stop their teens from dropping out of school when they tell them they must be able to find sustainable. Hitting your child with this dose of reality can do wonders for a school attendance problem.

Take Your Teen To Your Local GP for a Check Up
If your teen has not been seen by a doctor recently, it may be time for a checkup. Many children don’t want to go to school if they don’t feel well so it could be a medical health problem. Have they been complaining about headaches, nausea and sleep problems? Anxiety and depression are quite common for a lot of teens these days.

Fixing A Truancy Issue
If you have problems getting your teenager to school, you are not alone in the battle. For a lot of kids school is the last thing on their mind. Rather than giving into their whining, focus on finding a solution to the problem. They may feel passionate about quitting school today, but they will eventually regret that decision later on in life like most dropouts do. Work with the school and the counselor there to try and resolve the issue. When all else fails, hit them with a healthy dose of reality. Tough love is often a great tool.

Being faced with the prospect of early morning rises, using crowded public transport, paying board to live at home and other expenses , will make a child wise up and realize how good things really are.


Australian Institute of Family Studies: Citizens Child: Australian law and Childrens Rights

ABC News: Uni Graduates Likely to Earn $1million More Over a Lifetime.