Q: HELP!! I am at a loss. My 11 year old son won’t go to school. He refuses to get out of bed and go for a whole list of reason. My husband and I recently seperated so I am sure that is part of the real problem. Some of his reasons for not going to school are, I’m tired, I hate you today, My life sucks so I am going to make you miserable, I don’t want to live with you anymore, and other reasons. When I told him that if he didn’t start going to school we would have to look for other options, like going to live with his dad, he absolutely refused. I have tried grounding him, taking away privileges, removing PS2 and television from his room, and taking away computer privileges. I am at a loss as what else I can do. He is always remorseful about not going to school and says it won’t happen again, but he has missed 6 days in the last three weeks. He has been seeing a counselor but that doesn’t seem to be doing any good either. I know it is starting to affect everyone else in the family and I am just at a loss. Please, any advice will be helpful. Thank you.

A: The first thing you do is make an appointment with the counselor your son is seeing and have a talk. I suspect that your son is scared he is going to lose you too, just as he has lost daily contact with his dad. He’s hanging around to keep track of you. Not that he’s thinking this through. He’s flailing with words and with his thinking. At 11, he may be getting big physically but don’t let that fool you. He’s still a kid and – for him – your separation from his dad is a catastrophic event.

Rather than coming up with more ways to punish him for not going to school, you need to find ways to help him manage this transition in his family’s life. That’s why I’m suggesting you go see his counselor. Include his dad if you can. The two of you need to find new ways to co-parent and you might as well start with this very real problem. Your son needs to know that he has two parents who care about him and who can help him figure out how to manage having his parents in two places.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie