Teen REALLY doesn't want to be at CHS

My 17-year old junior just told me that she won't go back to CHS. She explained that she isn't being bullied and she isn't self-harming (and I know there's no drugs/alcohol) but she just can't bear another day there. After much listening, I don't think this is, figuratively speaking, cancer but I think it's more than a bad cold. I think she's depressed and anxious and scared of failing a pressured line-up of APs/orchestra, etc. She's been saying all year that she hates CHS and has been struggling with some of her classes but she's now saying, quietly but definitively, that she won't go back.

I want to show her that I'm taking this very seriously and am going to help her. So any thoughts on next steps? Therapist recommendations, advice on CHS procedures? Should I withdraw her? She wants an immediate solution, of course.


End of the first semester is the end of January (I think).  Maybe get her to finish out the semester and start looking for other options.  Is homeschooling a short-term option?  


Do you think her guidance counselor or one of her teachers might have some insight? Or be able to suggest changes/a more tolerable path?  You've covered the most important thing--listening to your child.  But she's not the only one who has been in this situation.  The guidance counselor will know of others, and how they changed things.  Would a road map about how to graduate early help?  


That's a tough situation. I take it she doesn't have a diagnosis/history of mental illness? 

I recommend Robin Halpern in Millburn as a therapist. She is professional, compassionate but also action-oriented. Many of her clients have issues like ADHD, autism etc but her background includes other pediatric/young adult issues. 973-454-7405


take berkeley's advice and schedule something ASAP. also contact the guidance counselor ASAP.



A consultation with her pediatrician first to rule out illness.

Good luck!


Her situation may be different, but in high school I really wanted to just 'get away' for a while. So, we looked into foreign exchange for a semester or year, and also looked into me living with friends of the family in California and going to high school there for a year. 

Ultimately, I think inertia took over, and I stayed at my high school until I graduated. But it was nice to consider other options, have my parents take it seriously, and feel like I had some choice in the matter. 


"I think she's depressed and anxious and scared of failing a pressured line-up of APs/orchestra, etc. She's been saying all year that she hates CHS and has been struggling with some of her classes but she's now saying, quietly but definitively, that she won't go back."

Have you spoken with her and asked her directly to explain why she doesn't want to go back to Columbia?  Have you explained to her that unless you know the problem simply taking her out of Columbia won't necessarily mean that the problem won't resurface in the next school or in other phases of her life?

Once you both have a clear understanding of what is happening here, you can work with her to alleviate the situation.  There is simply too little to go on to be able to solve the problem based on the information you have provided. 



If she is generally a good student you might give her a few days off while you are working through this.  Either a few all at once to decompress, or a few passes a month where she can just say "not today".  Good luck with this.


I agree with the therapist recommendation.   A good therapist will be able to help assess whether the primary issue is being triggered by the environment at CHS or if it is something that your daughter will need to work through regardless of her school environment.  As a parent of three teens, I'm continually reminded how much more difficult the issues and pressures are that today's teens need to deal with and very grateful that I grew up in the 70s and 80s (pre-internet, Facebook, iPhones, Snapchat, Instagram...).   If the issue is not something unique to CHS, then she needs to recognize that the problems won't just magically go away if you were to grant her wish to move or change schools.   I also think this could be an opportunity for you to help her develop essential tools to be more resilient in overcoming social and academic pressures.   While I generally side on the "listen to your kids"  parenting advice, I also question whether our parents' generation had the better approach.   I'm certain that my parents would have completely dismissed any statement that I wasn't going back to school with a simple "yes you are" or "get in the car".    


You might want to google and read up on "school refusal."  Much more common than I realized when my kids were in high school. 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/school-refusal-when-a-child-wont-go-to-school-2018091814756

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/1015/p1555.html

https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/school-refusal

Hope this helps. This isn't easy for your daughter or family, and I hope you get the support you all need. 


https://www.mka.org/admissions/tuition-financial-aid

My daughter is on the page that loads. Expensive school, but very reasonably if a parent is employed there.

I think changing schools is much better than home schooling when early signs of School Refusal begin.


Young people have very complex and unique thought processes. It’s difficult to determine the true underlying fears and issues. Very often they may not be what you think, or even what the child thinks. The best route is to seek professional help.


jersey_boy said:

https://www.mka.org/admissions/tuition-financial-aid

My daughter is on the page that loads. Expensive school, but very reasonably if a parent is employed there.

I think changing schools is much better than home schooling when early signs of School Refusal begin.

While I agree that home schooling is not the best option (to put it mildly), I don't see how changing schools is a very good option either - particularly at this stage of the issue where there is very little known as to what the actual issue is.

The first option has to be to get the bottom of the emotional issues that are causing this.


finnegan said:

You might want to google and read up on "school refusal."  Much more common than I realized when my kids were in high school. 

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/school-refusal-when-a-child-wont-go-to-school-2018091814756

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/1015/p1555.html

https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/school-refusal

Hope this helps. This isn't easy for your daughter or family, and I hope you get the support you all need. 

Thanks so much for all your suggestions, and especially for these resources. I had no idea school refusal is a thing and that it's different from truancy (which I know a little about from my own high school days). I've set up an appointment for us to meet with her guidance counselor, who said that CHS works with lots of kids who refuse to go to school. And I've reach out to friends who've worked with teen therapists to get more recommendations. But once again, MOL proves to be the best first source of context and help when I'm faced with a problem - thank you!


Rivoli said:

My 17-year old junior just told me that she won't go back to CHS. She explained that she isn't being bullied and she isn't self-harming (and I know there's no drugs/alcohol) but she just can't bear another day there. After much listening, I don't think this is, figuratively speaking, cancer but I think it's more than a bad cold. I think she's depressed and anxious and scared of failing a pressured line-up of APs/orchestra, etc. She's been saying all year that she hates CHS and has been struggling with some of her classes but she's now saying, quietly but definitively, that she won't go back.

I want to show her that I'm taking this very seriously and am going to help her. So any thoughts on next steps? Therapist recommendations, advice on CHS procedures? Should I withdraw her? She wants an immediate solution, of course.

 When you talk to Guidance at CHS ask about Effective School Solutions, a therapeutic program at CHS. For some kids it is life-changing. 



Does your daughter say she wishes she could go to another high school that is different from CHS in some way?  I'm just wondering if it's a high school issue or a CHS-specific issue. 


You defintely need to work towrads figuring out what the underlying cause(s) might be. I would absolutely not recommend  immediatley putting her into another school or pulling her out of CHS for "home shcooling". This type of action could inadvertently make the problem worse. For example, it might reinforce anxiety and also give her the message that when things become difficult, avoidance is the best strategy. Consult with a therapist and definitely make contact, asap, with the guidance counselor. You need to begin to try to dissect the problem. Good luck to you both.


CHS has therapeutic resources (including ESS mentioned above) to help kids deal with emotional issues related to school and anxiety. It might help her to have someone in school to talk to, in addition to any private therapy you seek out. School based emotional support could also work with her to make adjustments to her schedule or work load that could be overwhelming her, or direct her to other resources in school that might help. 


CHS became an overwhelming place for my daughter. She’d spend lunch and free time in a bathroom stall.

It’s not an easy school. Changing to a small school made all the difference. Now a grad of 2 top tier schools she earned a BA with high honors, and MSW with straight As for 3 years.  

The right place is crucial. 


In addition to ESS (which might not be a good fit if school refusal is the main issue), I believe there may be a “school within a school” for kids who need to be out of them main population.  Good luck!


susan1014 said:

In addition to ESS (which might not be a good fit if school refusal is the main issue), I believe there may be a “school within a school” for kids who need to be out of them main population.  Good luck!

 There is, it's called CAP. I don't remember what it stands for, but the classes are very small. 




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