Skip to content

When your teen drops out of school

WHAT happens when a child decides to drop out of school? Up to what age is school attendance compulsory? If a teenager is out of school and wandering around doing nothing, is there anyone who would pick him up and take him to school? One of our reade

WHAT happens when a child decides to drop out of school? Up to what age is school attendance compulsory? If a teenager is out of school and wandering around doing nothing, is there anyone who would pick him up and take him to school?

One of our readers presented this dilemma to us. And the short answer is that children are supposed to stay in school until they are 16, but because there are no longer truant officers there is no one to deal with a kid on the street unless he is breaking the law.

So what's a parent to do? The first step is to become a detective and find out why. Why has he dropped out of school? Visit the school and meet with the school counsellor. Also talk to any of his teachers who might know him well enough to determine the problem.

Has he fallen behind on his assignments and feels he can never catch up so has given up? Is he having a lot of trouble with one of his academic subjects and figures he's going to fail, so what's the point of trying? Is he being bullied? Is he dealing with a romantic problem? Did his girlfriend dump him?

Discovering the reason for his behaviour will go a long way to solving the problem. An average 15-year-old is not really keen to spend his days doing nothing. However, once he has started it can become a habit. So you need to find out what is going on with him. Then the solution may be a tutor, a plan with his teachers to help him over the hump or counselling. If the issue is bullying, you need to work with the school on an anti-bullying plan. And if he is recovering from a romantic break-up he needs to be heard so listen to him while he talks about his feelings.

On a broader front, a child who has determined that he is no longer a student is now a young adult. It's not healthy for anyone to do nothing all day.

When kids are around 12 years old it's a good idea to let them know what the expectations will be after they finish high school. If they are older and have dropped out, you can still have this conversation.

My advice is to let your children know that while they are students you will support them. Once they are finished with their studies, it's time to get a job.

Young adults who are living at home are just that - adults, no longer kids. Adults are expected to pay room and board. They are also to do their share of the work needed to maintain a home. This goes further than simply chores. It's now time for them to become involved in home repairs, laundry, cooking, food shopping and cleaning. In other words, they help with whatever is needed on a daily basis. In this way you are not only recognizing that they are now living as adults, they are learning the skills they will need to become independent and be out on their own.

When you tell your younger kids about this, it's easy. It's just letting them look forward to the next step in their life. In the same way you talk to them about going to high school, you mention the step beyond graduation.

When your child has already dropped out the challenge is to present this information in a matter-of-fact way so that it's not a punishment but instead simply an expectation.

A child who has dropped out has a reason and needs your support but he also needs to understand the realities of his choice.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker, broadcaster, columnist and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. For information or to book Kathy for a speaking engagement, go to her website at www.ParentingToday.ca

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks