Refusal to go to school can be due to:
- difficulties in separating from parents
- being perfectionist, and becoming depressed because they can't do as well as they would want to
- disturbed family life, with early separation from or death of parent.
- an established pattern which may have started at primary school. These children often have physical symptoms, such as headache or stomach-ache.
Those who go to school, but then play truant, are usually unhappy at home and frustrated at school. They prefer to spend their days with others who feel the same way.
Emotional problems will often affect school work - worrying about yourself or about what is going on at home makes it difficult to concentrate. Pressure to do well and to pass exams may come from parents or teachers, but adolescents usually want to do
well and will push themselves. Excessive nagging can be counter-productive. Exams are important, but they should not be allowed to dominate life or to cause unhappiness.
Bullying can cause all of the above. Around 1 in 10 secondary school children is bullied at some point; about 1 in 20 is bullied every week. Short children are more likely to be bullied. If you are worried that this is happening, talk to the school to
make sure that they enforce their bullying policy.
Trouble with the law
Most young people do not break the law, but those who do are usually boys. When they do, it usually only happens once.
If a parent doesn't feel that breaking the law is particularly important, it is more likely that their children will offend.
Unhappiness or distress can also lead to behaviour that will get them into trouble with the police. It is always worth asking about their feelings if an adolescent is repeatedly getting into trouble.
Weight can be a real problem. If an adolescent is overweight and is criticised or made fun of, they are more likely to dislike themselves and to become depressed. This can lead to inactivity and comfort eating, which worsens the weight problem - dieting
can actually aggravate the situation. It is more important to ensure that they feel happy with themselves, fat or thin.
Many adolescents diet. Fortunately, few will develop serious eating disorders - only around 1 in 100 teenagers develop anorexia, 1 in 50 have bulimia. However, these are more likely to occur in those who take up serious dieting, think very little of themselves,
are under stress and who has been over-weight as a child.
Drugs, solvents and alcohol
- Many teenagers experiment with alcohol and illegal drugs. Around 1 in 3 15-year-olds in England has used drugs at some time.
- Regular use of drugs or alcohol is much less common. Less than 1 in 100 of 11-to-12-year-olds are regular users, but this increases to 1 in 6 of 15-year-olds.
- Although cannabis has been widely felt to be relatively harmless, there is now good evidence that it can make mental health problems worse in adolescence, and can double the risk of developing schizophrenia.
- Despite publicity about other drugs, alcohol is the most common drug to cause problems for adolescents.
- You should consider the possibility of drug or alcohol use when you notice sudden or dramatic changes in behaviour.
- Find out about any drugs your children may be using - see the telephone and web resources at the end of the leaflet.