My teen keeps missing school because of depression and anxiety: What can I do?

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Depression and anxiety are prevalent mental health issues among teenagers; about 70% of teens say that anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers. Unfortunately, these disorders can cause physical and emotional symptoms that make it difficult for teens to attend school, negatively impacting their ability to learn and perform well academically.

Missing school can create a vicious cycle where teens fall behind in coursework, which can then exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety. A study found that several indicators show a link between school absences and teenage anxiety.

Knowing the connection between a teen’s depression, anxiety and insistence on missing school can help parents and caregivers use effective strategies that support their teens’ well-being. Professional therapists can also work together with parents to help their teens succeed academically.

How do depression and anxiety cause teens to miss school?

While depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and loss of interest, anxiety disorder refers to consistent feelings of stress and fear of everyday situations. Together, depression and anxiety can cause teens to miss school for a variety of reasons. Some possible reasons can include:

  • Physical discomfort — Depression and anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, nausea, and muscle tension, all of which can make teens feel physically ill and cause them to miss school.
  • Difficulty concentrating — Depression and anxiety can make it difficult for teens to focus and pay attention, which can negatively impact their ability to learn and perform well in school.
  • Social anxiety — Teens with social anxiety may find it difficult to attend school because they feel anxious or self-conscious around their peers. They may also fear being called on in class or having confrontational conversations with their peers and teachers. 
  • Lack of motivation — Teens with depression may lack the motivation to complete schoolwork and may fear repercussions when they get to the classroom. In addition, teens with depression may find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, leading to a decision to miss school.
  • Fear of failure — Teens with anxiety may be afraid of failing and may avoid school to evade the stress and pressure of academic performance. In addition, teens with depression may have negative thoughts about themselves, which may make them believe that they are not capable of succeeding in school.

What can parents do to support their teens who miss school because of depression and anxiety?

While teens often miss school due to depression and anxiety, absences only make the situation worse. Absences accumulate, causing teens to fall behind in coursework and feel even more overwhelmed with their workload, which can then exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Parents can play a crucial role in supporting their child while they struggle with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Here are some tips for parents who are concerned about how their child’s mental health is affecting their schoolwork:

  • Communicate with your child’s school — Reach out to your child’s teachers and school counselor to let them know about your concerns and discuss how they can support your child academically and emotionally before and after they miss school.
  • Encourage your child to seek professional help — Encouraging your child to seek professional help for their mental illness is perhaps one of the most important ways to support your child and help them go back to school. You can work with your child to find a therapist or counselor who can help them manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being. A mental health professional can help provide an accurate diagnosis and develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the child’s specific needs. Throughout your child’s therapy process, you can encourage them to develop coping strategies that work for them, such as mindfulness, deep breathing and visualization.
  • Create a supportive environment at home — It is vital that you create a safe and supportive environment at home where your child feels comfortable discussing their thoughts and feelings. Doing so can ease your child’s depression and anxiety symptoms and associate their home with safety. You can also encourage your child to establish healthy habits such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet and a regular sleep schedule. Most of all, you should show interest in your child’s life and be available to talk to when they need your feedback.
  • Be flexible with deadlines and assignments — As your child catches up on work after their absences, it’s important to be understanding and flexible with their deadlines and assignments. You can work with your child’s teachers to come up with a plan that accommodates your teen’s needs. You can also help your child prioritize and manage their time effectively by breaking down tasks into smaller chunks and setting realistic and achievable goals. 

Our Lightfully clinicians can help stop your teen from missing school because of anxiety and depression

Is your child missing school because of depression or anxiety symptoms? As a parent, you are in an ideal position to give your child the help they need. Finding a professional therapist can be a major first step toward recovery and getting your child’s school routine back on track. Our team of expert therapists at Lightfully has devoted an entire program to teens and their mental health struggles.

We know that it’s important to be patient, supportive, and understanding as teens navigate depression and anxiety symptoms, and our Lightfully approach is to treat your child as the whole person they are. With the right help and support, your child can improve their mental health and achieve academic success.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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