Stop Your Tween From Skipping School

three girls in school uniforms running down a road
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Middle schoolers often feel the temptation to break a few rules, just to see what they can get away with. Skipping school may be one way they test the rules—and their parents. At some point during your child's middle school experience, they may try to skip school. While ditching class may be glamorized in the movies (think "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") and even in literature, the truth is the behavior can have serious academic and even legal consequences.

What's more, tweens and teens who skip school may be tempted to smoke, drink, or use other illicit substances, or they may get into trouble by vandalizing or stealing. Even if your child skips school just to watch television or hang out with friends, it's illegal and could put him seriously behind in his schoolwork.

How to Prevent Your Child From Skipping School

Parents can do a lot ahead of time to prevent kids from ditching school. You'll need to enforce some discipline to help keep your child from engaging in truant behavior.

Discuss the School's Rules

Of course, all schools have rules about tardiness and absences. But few families actually talk about these rules and what happens when they're broken. Before the school year even starts, be sure your child understands that unexcused absences can mean:

  • Being benched for sports or other extracurricular activities
  • A bigger homework load
  • Lower grades, since schools don't always allow students to make up tests or other graded work if they have an unexcused absence

Know the Consequences

Consequences for absenteeism vary from school to school and district to district. Families may be fined or, in extreme cases, arrested or jailed if their child skips school too often. It's also possible that kids who miss a lot of school will not advance to the next grade. Make sure yours knows what could happen if they choose not to go to school.

Talk About Your Expectations

It's not just about school rules, it's about your family rules as well. Be sure your child understands your expectations as well as your consequences. Middle schoolers may think twice about skipping school if they know that they'll lose their cell phone, iPad, or other device for a few weeks (or whatever privilege is meaningful to them).

Know If There's a Problem

Students may be tempted to ditch school because of a problem such as bullying, social rejection, or feeling overwhelmed by their academic workload. So it's important to communicate with your tween and understand the problems they're facing. Instead of punishing your student, give them the tools they need to handle these issues, whether that means tutoring or some other academic help, professional counseling for mental health issues, or more encouragement and support from you and other adult mentors as they navigate the challenges of adolescence.

Stay Connected to the School

It's much easier for parents to know their child's whereabouts today than it has been in the past. Automatic phone and email messages alert parents to kids' absences immediately. Such notifications give parents the opportunity to react before their child's truancy becomes a chronic problem.

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