Emotionally-Based School Avoidance (EBSA)

Parent - EBSA Support

If you think your child may have EBSA there are ways you can support them, along with school and other agencies.

Collaboration between school and home is the best approach to ensure your child’s concerns and worries are being supported. While school can support these needs within school, home can support the child with their worries about going to school or when they return home.  Here are some top tips for supporting your child who may have a presentation of EBSA:

  • Listen to your child’s concerns and acknowledge their emotions. It is important to remain calm when discussing returning to school as this can be a time of frustration for you and your child.
  • Speak with your child’s school as soon as possible to share information and create a consistent approach to support your child. Link with them when possible so everyone is on the same page.
  • Create a consistent routine at home e.g. mornings, mealtimes and bedtimes. You may need to add time into your routine to talk your child through their worries.
  • Small steps are key. It may be that you need to repeat a step again if your child misses school or is finding a certain step in the plan anxiety provoking.  
  • Spend time answering any questions your child may have about school. You may have to research the school website or speak to school staff to answer them.
  • Support your child to regulate when they are feeling worried about attending school. You can use some of the strategies in the downloadable resource. You can use these too!
  • Use a transitional object if your child finds it difficult to be separated from you e.g. a photo of you, a note, small item that reminds them of you etc.
  • Parents need to be absolutely ‘crystal’ clear about school attendance.  The question must be not if the child is going to school but when they will be going.  A very firm (but caring) approach may be necessary.  Clear and consistent instructions are needed including what is called ‘broken record’ instructions.  This means repeating the same basic instruction over and over again until it is understood.

For example, the parent will say clearly and calmly, “We are getting in the car now to go.” “No, it’s too late for that – please get in the car.” “Please get in the car now.” “No, I’m asking you to get in the car now.” “We are not going back inside the house.” In the end, this kind of approach should give your child a sense of safety that their family can be relied upon at times of crisis.

The child should be made aware of the social and interpersonal problems that can result from not dealing with school refusal.  For example, school is a very important place to meet friends, ‘stay in touch’ with what other teenagers are doing, as well as develop skills to deal with uncomfortable or frightening situations.  Therefore losing this important social link to school can add to existing anxieties and deny them key opportunities to learn how to deal with everyday social problems.

  • The child should be made aware of the social and interpersonal problems that can result from not dealing with school refusal.  For example, school is a very important place to meet friends, ‘stay in touch’ with what other teenagers are doing, as well as develop skills to deal with uncomfortable or frightening situations.  Therefore losing this important social link to school can add to existing anxieties and deny them key opportunities to learn how to deal with everyday social problems.
  • Parents/Family can concentrate on positive successes in respect to child’s school experiences by focussing on the good things such as school friends, sports, favourite subjects, lunch break, computer access, favourite teachers etc.

Parent/family is encouraged to make statement such as “I know you can do it”.  “You’ve done it before, you can do it again” or “Well, we’ve discussed this.  What do you need to do next?”  These statements will encourage the child to confront rather than avoid the source of his/her anxiety.  Praise or “talk up” all efforts that help them return to school or cope with anxiety provoking situations e.g. walking through the school corridors on their own, completing school work assigned to them whilst at home etc.  

Who can support you?

It is important to remember you are not alone. You may want to consider contacting the school ALNCo to check if they know of any services they recommend or could refer to e.g. family support. They may also be able to offer your child therapeutic support within school – e.g: ELSA.

ID: 11567, revised 15/05/2024
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