A 13-Year-Old Refuses To Go To School Because Mother Has Multiple Sclerosis And Needs Care. What Should Parents Do?

John Walkup, M.D., Johns Hopkins

Question: A 13-year-old refuses to go to school because mother has multiple sclerosis and needs to be taken care of. How should parents deal with this situation?

Answer: When I hear about a 13-year-old who wants to stay home from school to take care of her mother with multiple sclerosis, I think about a couple of things. First I want to understand the 13-year-old, whether she has any emotional issues that is driving really this desire to stay home and take care of her mother.

I also am concerned about the mother in addition to her multiple sclerosis. Is she giving some cues to her daughter to make her want her daughter to stay at home if you will? And then third, are there other issues that make it convenient for mom and daughter to kind of agree if you will, for the daughter to stay home.

So, we've seen this situation when kids have problems at school or when the school environment is not particularly supportive or caring. In those situations its easy for the kid to stay home and the mom's medical problems oftentimes is something that facilitates a ready explanation for why the youngster stays home. It is so important for youngsters who are of school age to be in an educational environment, that this really does need to be addressed directly.

So, I would encourage the mom and the dad and the child to begin to assess their situation, identify where the issues are and then one by one, tackle them so that this is a youngster who can feel secure, that her mom is okay at home, but also go off to school and do the important developmental tasks of getting an education and making friends.

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