Communicating with School / Health and Wellness / Life Skills / Ages 5-18

My Child Frequently Misses School. What Can I Do?

Getting your child to school every day isn’t always easy—but it is important. These strategies may help.

Getting your child to school every day (and on time) isn’t always easy. For many families, work schedules, transportation, illness, and more can get in the way. If your child is missing school frequently, you’re not alone.

But being present in school every day, unless they’re genuinely sick and need to rest, is essential for your child’s learning. When your child misses multiple days of school, they may fall behind and it can become very difficult to catch up. Frequent absences also make it more challenging for their teacher to deliver the best possible instruction to the whole class. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if your child is missing school—many families face this challenge!—but now is a great time to make a plan to improve your child’s attendance moving forward.

If attendance is a barrier for your family, here are some things to consider:


Ask yourself and your family: Why is your child missing school?

Students miss school for many reasons. It’s important to identify the primary challenges facing your family and child. Does your child struggle to get up on time in the morning? Do they feel anxious or bored and not want to attend school? Are they frequently ill? Is transportation a challenge, or do your work hours make it difficult for you to bring them to school? Different challenges will have different possible solutions, so understanding what’s going on for your child is a good place to start.


Review your school’s attendance policy.

This is typically found in your school’s student handbook. Most schools have a threshold above which they consider a student “chronically absent.” This is usually somewhere around 10 percent of the school year—which sounds like a lot, but it can add up quickly. For example, if your child misses around 2 days of school per month over the course of the year, they would be considered chronically absent. Your child’s school may have consequences for students who miss more than a set number of days, or for whom many absences are considered “unexcused.” For example, attendance may begin to affect their grades, or even their ability to pass a class or graduate (for high school students). It’s important to understand the policies and explain any consequences to your child.


Talk to the school staff.

Your child’s teachers and school leaders want them in school, and they’re there to help. Request a meeting to talk about how you can work together to address the barriers that are keeping your child out of school. Possible solutions might include teaming up with another family who can help with school drop-off or pickup; engaging your child with a new club or extracurricular that helps them feel more excited about school; accessing resources like in-school laundry facilities, and much more. If there’s an adult in the building to whom your child feels especially connected —like a coach or an advisor—talk to them as well. They may have other ideas for how to support your child.


Create an “attendance success plan.”

This can start with re-establishing your family’s norms around going to school every day. (We’re not in pandemic times anymore, when the littlest sniffle meant staying home!) Ask your whole family to recommit to bedtime and morning routines that make it easier to get to school on time. That might mean waking up 10 minutes earlier so your child can make the bus, or pushing bedtime earlier so waking up doesn’t feel so painful. Attendance Works offers this helpful template for making a plan for your child. You can also create a family “help bank,” where you’ll list names and phone numbers of people you can call upon to help drop off or pick up your child.


Talk to your child’s pediatrician.

If your child is experiencing severe anxiety or school avoidance, they may need support that goes beyond what school can offer. Set up an appointment with your child’s doctor to discuss your concerns about their mental health.

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