13 YO refusing to go to school...don't know what to try next! :(

(43 Posts)
mumofayoung Wed 27-Feb-13 09:58:06

First time posting here, I feel so helpless and useless that I just can't see a way forward at the moment. I have 1 13 year old boy who has been showing signs of unhappiness for quite some time. There's been difficulties for a long time within the family relationships. He is refusing to go to school at the moment. The school have been very supportive and offered him counselling and anger managemnt type courses along with confidence building activities within school. They have recognised and suggested that he has an attatchment disorder and are arranging an assessment with an educational phycologist. he seems to change his reasons why he doesn't want to go but won't talk to me about it, other than to shout at me and say he hates me. The latest thing is that he hates the school itself and teachers so they are looking at letting him move schools which he seemed pleased about. He realises that he needs to be showing willing to go and participate in lessons for that to happen and seemed ok about it. I had a meeting arranged at school today to get this sorted out for him and now he is refusing to go in again! I have spoken to school today and they feel like he is panicking because he is scared about moving and actually doesn't want to but now doesn't know what to do. I am in a complete muddle myself about this and just feel so exhausted I can't even think straight. Sorry if I'm rambling but it's so complicated! Can any one give me any idea as to why he is behaving like this? I'm at my wits end! sad

KateF Tue 05-Mar-13 19:26:17

Maryz-thanks for that lovely and helpful post. I've read a lot of your troubled teens thread late at night when I can't sleep for worry. You are right of course and the people who do the "why don't you just..." thing usually have much younger children. It was, looking back, so easy when Mummy could make nit all better with a cuddle and a Smartie.

Oh and chocolate works for both of us!

KateF Tue 05-Mar-13 19:27:00

Make nit all better? I wish nits responded to hugs and Smarties-sadly not!

someoftheabove Tue 05-Mar-13 20:38:17

Just bitten the bullet and booked a private therapist for dd to try this week. I work with vulnerable families at primary school level and it occurs to me that there are far more accessible services out there for younger kids than for teenagers. I think most parents with a teenager in distress resign themselves to coping alone or fighting every inch of the way to get professional involvement.

Queenofcats, is your dd's school helping at all? It can be very tough if your dc is not like the other kids in their class, doesn't like the same things or have the same interests. The greatest pressure at secondary is to conform, and if you feel you don't fit in, it can be very hard to stay true to yourself. I've recommended a book on another post, called "Stick up for yourself" which I use for primary age kids - it' not rocket science, but it's about taking control of how you react to situations and learning how to manage your emotions, even when you can't control what other people say or do. Might be worth looking to see if Amazon suggests anything similar for teenagers - I'll have a look, too.

someoftheabove Tue 05-Mar-13 20:41:48

Oh, and another thing, Queen, don't worry about non-attendance at this stage. I work with EWOs and they tend to go after parents who aren't actively trying to resolve the situation - you obviously are. You cannot and should not force your dd into school as she obviously finds it a distressing place to be. An EWO will understand that, or should do.

QueenOfCats Tue 05-Mar-13 20:59:25

Thanks Someoftheabove smile

Dd's school were initially supportive but I'm getting the impression they they're getting fed up of her.

I had a meeting with the school and CAMHS therapist together and it was decided a phased return to school would be if benefit. We agreed on 3 afternoons a week but dd went to meet a friend after school one afternoon she wasn't meant to be there and the head of year decided he wanted dd back at school full time. Dd agreed to this and initially all was ok.

She still had the odd panic attack but coped. Then a girl on her year started a rumour that dd had sex with an 18 year old - not true - and some of her "friends" said they didn't want to know her anymore. Dd was so upset. She tried to talk to the girl she regarded as her best friend, but the girl said to dd "I've got my own problems I don't need to deal with yours too".

Dd was distraught. She has supported this girl through so much, has been a shoulder for her to cry on and has backed her up when nobody else would. This resulted in dd self harming weekend before last. She felt she had no one. sad

someoftheabove Tue 05-Mar-13 22:26:44

Oh, Queen what a horrible thing for your dd to have to deal with. From what you say, she seems to be more mature than her friends and her expectations of them in terms of how supportive they will be may be too high (not her fault). For us adults, simply saying, "Of course I didn't have sex with an 18 year old, how ridiculous" would be enough to make us feel we'd made our point, but for a child of that age, it really hurts. Not only that someone would start such a rumour, but that her so-called friends would ostracise her because of a rumour. If this doesn't improve, and school doesn't support you, would you consider moving her?

someoftheabove Wed 06-Mar-13 08:25:22

Meant to say, I've found www.youngminds.org.uk full of usual advice.

nickstmoritz Wed 06-Mar-13 10:36:35

I just have to add my sympathy for all of you going through these difficulties. My own DD now in Y11 has gone through similar experiences and I remember just crying my eyes out because DD wouldn't go to school. It is just horrible and I so agree with the feeling that everyone elses children seem to be happy and successful, as we have read on here there are loads of children (and families) going through this. DD moved primary school at Y5 because she was miserable and she had a great year at a different school (probably the only year she has enjoyed school!) so we have had many years of worry over this problem. I guess she is just not a girl who has enjoyed school even though she is bright.

A couple of points to add..one of the things that helped DD was that we took her to the GP for a blood test and this showed she had very low iron levels which made her exhausted and less able to cope. She doesn't find it easy to go to bed and get the right amount of sleep. It may be worth checking things physically because that can have knock on effects emotionally too. It didn't magically make DD love school but it did improve the daily routine of trying to get up and out.

DD is quiet and artistic, she has suffered torment from the way other girls have behaved..the usual freezing out, mean comments, not being invited to things etc I have just tried to support her through it. We looked at "Queen Bees and Wannabes" book which helped a bit. I have just tried to keep her spirits up and keep her going. Tried to arrange things to do outside school. It doesn't make up for the school/friends thing but has helped.

We have made the decision to move schools at 6th form stage so DD is leaving her academic state girls grammar to go to art college and do a BTech. (Cue raised eyebrows and looks down the nose from some people...I couldn't care less what they think. I will be glad for DD to move on) It has helped her to know that school is nearly over and apart from some GCSE related stress things have improved a great deal. Strangely enough, over the last couple of months DD has started to get friendly with a few girls she didn't know before (in year above and different forms) and there is definitely light at the end of a difficult dark tunnel.
Please try and remember that you are not alone and things can get better. I hope you get the help you need. It is quite possible to pick up education and training later so if school does not go well it is not the end of the world. Good luck all.

nickstmoritz Wed 06-Mar-13 10:37:35

sorry should say has NOT enjoyed school

WillowinGloves Wed 06-Mar-13 12:15:11

Hi mumofayoung - is your week getting any better and was the GP a help? You are having a tough time and so it is not surprising that your DS is reacting to it all - it's just a way of asking for help and you sound like you're doing a very good job of trying to provide it. But it's a learning curve and none of us know how to do it when we start! I still feel patches of despair, but I guess after five years of it, I have learned to deal with it all in some way or other. But it is such a relief to read these threads and know I'm not the only one - in RL, everyone's kids are happy, successful, confident, with stacks of friends! My friends worry about if their kids will get all A*s when I'm just hoping I can get mine to go in! When they complain about their kids' social lives, I have to stop myself from snapping back, 'Well, at least they have some friends!'
Queen - I do feel for you! Apart from my DS, I also have DD who - like yours - has had trouble making friends who are interested in her kind of thing - with many of them, it's all make-up and boys and celebs and gossip! She has finally found a group of girls that seem lovely and I am so hoping things will get better. She loves school - just wants to work and have friends and be herself.
Maryz is so right, that school is a small part of their lives - but as teenagers, they just don't have that perspective and that's why they despair. For them, this IS their whole life. One of the things I did was to find DS some outside activities that had nothing to do with school - to prove there is a world outside that has good things in it and nice people.
Hope everyone's week is going well ...

mumofayoung Thu 07-Mar-13 06:06:36

Hi all, we have made some progress this week, Monday was a flat no to school. The GP wasn't great but was slightly better than the last one I saw, she did make a comment though that bugged me...it was something along the lines that as my son isn't self harming yet or taking drugs & stealing then I should be grateful for that! I'm trying to steer him in the right direction to more positive things to PREVENT these things, not wait for it to get THAT bad that it would damage him beyond repair! I have been working closely with the school who have been very supportive and in fact my only source of support through this. In particular the SENCO and pastoral care manager. Pastoral care suggested that she do another home visit to us, this time at 8 o'clock in the morning on a day that I have to leave for work at 8.30. It could have gone either way and I did feel I was risking upsetting him further but really had nothing to lose. He has got on well with this particular lady previously and has responded well to her so I did have some confidence. It was hard to do but I left the house as normal he was refusing to get up and being unresponsive to me I just said that Mrs XXXXXX was downstairs and had come to help him and that I had to go to work. And I left it in her hands. When I returned home after 3 1/2 hours I was so anxious to know how it had gone and if he had gone in...his trainers were no longer in the hallway, dinner money taken from the side, went upstairs, bedroom empty, everything peaceful. It was such a relief, but obviously I was hoping he didn't feel forced as that could make his anxiety worse. When I phoned her she said it had taken her a few attempts by talking to him through the bedroom door and gently explaining that he needed to go into school, not to do lessons but there was a trip in the afternoon for him (which he knew about) and she didn't want him to miss out on. From there he went in and they are working closely with him directly to make a timetable for him that he is happy with so he feels in control, so far none of his usual lessons but things such as gardening and helping the children who attend with learning difficulties so he is receiving lots of praise for his invovlement with that and he has an action plan for just a few days at a time. Its a big relief for me but will need a lot more than this I know to move forward. I am just so grateful that things are going well for now and he is happily talking to me about his days and things are feeling dare I say it "normal" !!! Making the most of that feeling for now but preparing myself it could change at anytime again and being ready to support him in anyway I can. Thanks for all your support...I would have gone completley made if I hadn't come on here! xXx

gardeningmama Thu 07-Mar-13 09:46:41

Hi mumofayoung, I'm so glad you have had a better week and that your ds is coping for now. It's a good step in the right direction, very positive and I love that his school are supporting him in just doing things that he can be praised for and feel good about himself with.

My own ds had his first session with CBT lady at home yesterday evening and I hope this will be moving him in the right direction too. the one main thing that stood out for me was (when she brought me up to speed with ds present after their hour long chat) how we must keep careful control of his school refusal because it can be a slippery slope and that helping him to develop coping strategies other than staying at home is the first priority. Now it may not seem much, but rather stupidly I had never seen his behaviour re school as a strategy as such. I had seen it simply as an avoidance, it's semantics I know, but suddenly I have a different understanding and in a way some empowerment to deal with ds if and when he next says to me, "I'm not going to school". funny how just shifting ones view can open up more understanding. Anyway, he is at school today so relief for now!

mumofayoung Tue 12-Mar-13 20:40:48

How is it going guys? My boy hasn't been in yet this week, thought we were doing well but the weekends seem to affect him and Mondays are then hard to face again, which often spreads to Tuesday too! I'm hopeful that we will make progress tomorrow!

gardeningmama Wed 13-Mar-13 13:21:03

Hi mum. Weekends definitely have an effect, as do "returns" to school after holiday breaks - just as we get them into the flow ...

My ds is going through a better phase at the mo it seems, since I last posted he has seemed more relaxed and settled in his moods. I can see that he is still very dependent upon his friendships and convo's with friends (via facebook etc) for his peace of mind and he needs to learn to be independently strong, but I am glad for him to have had some happy time.

He has his second CBT session this friday and I booked an appointment with the headteacher tomorrow so ds can see that we are helping/supporting him emotionally but that he needs to responsibly address the academic side too. I have always thought that my ds wasn't too seriously depressed or school-phobic for the situation to become a deep worry, only enough to know he needed some pastoral support and some help in keeping the momentum of going to school in gear.

I am sure this time at home for your ds will be helpful in taking some of the stress off him. It is better to treat the child and his needs and help him find a "happy place" rather than making school attendance THE thing. Hope it's going ok.

WillowinGloves Wed 13-Mar-13 15:16:38

Oh yes, the weekend thing! And half terms or holidays - anything that breaks the routine. Or my DS has a thing where he goes in on day one and then can't face day two.
Your GP comment would have irritated me too! You can always say there's someone worse off but that doesn't help you to cope any better with your own situation. At times, it can make you feel guilty for feeling bad about it. And yes, when of course you want to stop things before they get that bad. I have found that when I have tried to pre-empt what I could see coming, I was seen as over-reacting! I was actually quite grateful when my DS took matters into his own hands and refused to go to school because only then did they listen to me. I had been telling them for months that he was desperate and they offered no help until he reached crisis point.
Enjoy your 'normal' days. Those whose kids just get up and go to school will never understand the relief of normal!!
We too are off to CBT this afternoon. Hope it goes well for all of us.

mumofayoung Wed 13-Mar-13 16:37:16

Yes very similar patterns here, when he has gone back after a school holiday I've been surprised, then day 2 he can't cope and doesn't go in, in fact this is where school picked up the seperation anxiety/attatchment disorder. Still not gone in yet this week I am so tired of it at the moment, I mean physically I have no energy. School have advised to keep everything as normal as possible in the routines we have outside of school so he at least has consistency there. So hard to do though when you're at the brunt of things in the mornings and bedtimes. I've always judged childrens behaviour on the parents rightly or wrongly and I believe this is my fault, I have done something wrong somewhere for it to get this bad - I must have done. I feel so useless that I can't sort things out, sometimes I don't even know whether to speak or not for risk of upsetting things further. Fed up of walking on eggshells and saying yet again the "wrong thing". Longterm I have no idea what effect this will have on my son, just taking each day at a time for now but so worried about the future! I'm so glad I found this site as yes I look out of the window at other peoples children going to school and think It's just us stuck like this. But I know it's not from reading all your posts so thankyou for simply being here and replying, it';s good to know I'm not alone when I really do feel like it xXx

someoftheabove Wed 13-Mar-13 20:35:12

It does sometimes feel it's just you, though. Sometimes I browse through the education threads and think, oh, to have the luxury of not knowing which fantastic uni offer dd should choose! But then I tell myself that's not who she is, maybe never was and it just took all of this to realise that. I think the worst thing is the not knowing what you'll be facing from one day to the next. DD didn't go in yesterday, but did go in today. Like other posters' DCs, she is worse on a Monday, but that's a long day for her.

I also frequently question my parenting, but then I look at DS and it's all going pretty ok for him, so I must have done something right - or at less not done anything wrong - with him. We need to recognise where our boundaries are and just do what we can to the best of our abilities. That's all any good parent can do.

mindfulmum Sat 16-Mar-13 08:18:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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