Anxious and stressed 11 year old son - anyone got advice as I'm struggling

(36 Posts)
redandblack Fri 23-Nov-12 11:03:16


My son has always been a sensitive lad but this last year he has got increasingly anxious and it has swollen into a huge problem right now. He says he just wants to be with me and anytime away from me he feels awful - it seemed to start around the time he went away with his primary school for a weeks holiday at the beginning of the year. Then senior school came and that has thrown him all over the place.

On the surface it has all gone well, he likes most of the teachers, has made some really good new friends as well as still being with firm long time friends from his last school. He has been put in the top set for all subjects and gets good marks for his work and he has enjoyed joining a couple of after school clubs. He swears blind there is no problem as such at school, no problem with other kids, no problem with teachers or work.

Every morning he is shaking with nerves, he says school makes him feel awful, he wants to die and he refuses to go. I have to be really firm and after much effort I get him up there - the school have been very supportive and given us lots of help. They let him go to a pupil services room at the start of the day and ease him into some lessons that he feels he can manage. It just seems to be getting worse and worse as the weeks go on despite trying lots of different ideas to try and talk through his fears, get him books to help and relaxation tapes etc etc. Each evening he starts stressing about the next day and we just seem to be going round and round in circles.

I asked for help and councelling through the GP (I think talking therapies like CBT can really work) but the waiting list was 8 months to be seen, the school councellor is fully booked right now and they have no funding for another one...given up and gone private despite struggling to find the money - what's money though compared to my son's peace of mind? I went through the doctor and have appointment with a phychologist on Saturday morning. Fingers crossed.

Hoping he will now get some intensive help to get him through this rotten time but has anyone got any brilliant tips that worked for them or just some reassurance that their kid got some help and managed to beat this rotten anxiety?

redandblack Fri 23-Nov-12 12:24:43

sad nobody got any ideas of word of advice? Would really appreciate anything you can suggest...

fortyplus Fri 23-Nov-12 12:26:30

My son was like this - (apart from the part about being in top sets for everything!! grin ) Hang on a min and I'll write something

BlissfullyIgnorant Fri 23-Nov-12 12:31:18

Might be worth trying some simple breathing exercises. Sorry to hear he's struggling and suffering - it's really awful.

DD was like that for all of nursery and all of pre prep and prep (it's a lot of years) but at senior school she's really much better and I'm hoping its a permanent shift. She can't manage with overpowering personalities and doesn't do well in a class with boys but now at a girls school which is probably a major factor. She's also dyslexic. Most people think its a reading thing but it's much wider ranging than that and school phobia is a symptom.

This, too, will pass.

fortyplus Fri 23-Nov-12 12:33:54

Yep - separation anxiety. We had throwing up every morning. And just like yours, when I actually asked him about his day he was happy - it was just leaving me and home that presented a problem.

I spoke to the school nurse and she taught him to use visualisation tecniques. He has to imagine a scene where he feels happy and relaxed. For my son it was a garden but it could be anywhere - wouldn't matter if it was Mc Donald's!! He has to be able to paint a picture in his head in minute detail. He should do this at a time when he's calm and confident - eg with you in the evening. Then when he's feeling stressed and anxious he can recall the mental picture and associate it with how calm it makes him feel.

One suggestion I also had was that he could imagine himself sitting in a cinema watching his favourite film and imagine getting closer and closer to the screen - even stepping into the film.

All this worked well for my son - he's 19 now and a confident, outgoing lad. He's developed a sporting interest and competes in a GB team despite not being sporty at school.

Good luck with your son - there is hope - he just needs to know that his feelings are real, valid and nothing to be ashamed of. The important thing is to develop strategies for dealing with them smile

Mine is the same. Same age and everything. Though your DS seems to be having more trouble settling.

Terrible thing to say out loud, but DS's anxiety cause him to be knocked down by a car last month, which bought it more to the attention of the school than any of my wittering on could have done and the school have sat up and started to take notice.

He has now been put in nurture groups and one to one sessions to help him with strategies. I have had several conversations with the Senco team. All sorts of good stuff.
A small thing that has made a big difference to him. He has been given a 'Get out of Jail free Card' grin If he is feeling especially anxious he can show it to the teacher and be able to leave the room, not even having to speak, ask permission or explain himself. It is mostly used to leave class early to ensure he gets to the next lesson on time without having to negotiate the scrum.

FaultLines Fri 23-Nov-12 14:01:39

How awful for you. I'm not really qualified to comment on how to deal with this - but just wanted to offer some support. My DC has some anxieties of this kind, but not to the same extent at all. I hope the psychologist can help x

redandblack Fri 23-Nov-12 20:47:34

Thank you for all these replies smile

Sorry to hear your kids having/had rough times too - fortyplus thank you for telling me your son is a happy young adult now, keeps me confident this is just a blip and my son will work his way through this. Sometimes when you are in the middle of it it is hard to believe everything is going to be fine!

Some great ideas too of things he can do to help cope when the anxiety strikes, love the idea of a get out of jail card - will suggest that to the school.

My son went in this morning in a right old mess, shaking and crying, begging me not to leave him. When I picked him up he had made it to half the lessons and walked out smiling and chatting with friends. Just keep going one day at a time I guess. xx

redandblack Mon 26-Nov-12 10:28:27

We went to see the private doctor who was very nice, my son liked him and was very open about talking about what all the problems are for him. It was just an assessment appointment so not much has been put in place yet, he suggested my son starts a diary of how he is feeling day to day and to make a worry box - he has to write down what it is every time he has a worry and then put it in the box (we bring the box to the next meeting for the doc to go through with him) We also tried doing a relaxation technique which my son managed well and he agreed it helped him feel calm.

Had a good weekend together then a huge melt down this morning. He refused to go to school so we had a stand off - he got really mad with me and said I was doing all these things that made him feel awful and it wasn't working and he wasn't going to try any more. He said he was going to kill himself now - he has threaten this before and it goes through me like a knife when he says that. Is he just trying to be dramatic to force me to keep him at home? I just don't know, hate, hate, hate it when he starts talking like that.

I insisted he went, even though every bone in my body just wanted to wrap my arms round him and let him stay here to take away the anxiety. I know it's the right thing to make him go and to be firm so that he can get through this rather than avoiding it all the time but it's tough.

He spent the journey there telling me he hated me and he wanted to kill himself - I've just got back and wish it was late enough in the day to be allowed a stiff drink. Phew.

monkeynuts123 Mon 26-Nov-12 20:07:41

Is there any reason he could be worried about you?

redandblack Mon 26-Nov-12 23:25:58

It has crossed my mind. I was poorly for almost three years, needed stick to walk, vision problems, unable to drive and was misdiagnosed by hospital meaning a long delay/battle for treatment. Had op end of last year and overnight fixed which was wonderful - wonder though how much this took a toll on both DS as it was difficult time. Thought my new found health meant happy days for us all but maybe the stress had more affect on DS than I ever realised and it is coming out now...

beachyhead Mon 26-Nov-12 23:30:36

Would you consider a homeopath? My son, who is also 11, suffers stress related IBS and the visits, chats and homeopathic medicines were really beneficial.

Just a thought.

redandblack Mon 26-Nov-12 23:44:25

I'm up for trying anything right now! I will look into it more in the morning and see if I can find anyone locally to see what they can offer - thank you for the suggestion xx

ToffeeWhirl Mon 26-Nov-12 23:54:23

So sorry you and your DS are going through this. My DS1 suffers huge anxiety issues and couldn't cope with school (I have done that awful walk to school with a frantic child that you describe) so I sympathise. It does sound as if your son is still worrying about you. Maybe he worried about you when he was away on that trip and couldn't be with you and now it has triggered this? And secondary school is a huge and stressful change - I know several children who have really struggled with the adjustment.

I read this to my son. It's very sensible. He also listened to relaxation CDs, but they were from something called The Linden Method, which is pricey. Any good relaxation CD should do.

Borrowing a neighbour's dog really helped to calm my DS down and we ended up looking after someone's dog over the summer holidays, which DS loved. The dog had a fantastically calming effect on him. We are now planning to get our own dog.

CBT should be the first thing he is offered through his GP. I'm really shocked that you haven't received any help with this. It's not fair that you've had to pay. However, the private doctor sounds good and if your son likes him that's half the battle.

I agree with the 'get out of jail' card. My son didn't get that - I asked for it - but, actually, his anxiety was so well known by the staff that he was allowed to leave the class whenever he needed to. He had a staff member that he would go and sit with whenever he became too upset to stay in the classroom (usually every day). You really do need support from the school with this.

I'm shocked that you are not getting support from CAMHS, by the way. We had help from them and from an Education Outreach Worker. If a child is at risk of not going to school, usually they all jump to attention.

I hope things get easier for you both soon.

My DD is having exactly the same problems and even similar drama this morning. Have you told medical people about him saying he wants to kill himself? They have taken this very seriously when my DD has expressed the same thing.

She also has an 'exit' card at school, which is helping a bit, but still pretty desperate at bedtime tonight. I have given her a 'get out of jail card' to be used once in the rest of this term to just have a day at home with no questions asked. I'll let you know how this goes.

One of our issues is also the intrusion of school life into her leisure time so I'm also limiting the time spent on homework. If she starts to get overwhelmed we put it away and I send a note to school.

The CAMHS psychiatrist has put her down for a CBT course which should help with the anxiety.

I have to say it seems pretty hopeless to me, too, so it's good to hear about older DCs who have come through it.

Good luck - it's very tough as a parent, isn't it? Unmnetty hug!

madwomanintheattic Tue 27-Nov-12 00:17:04

You need to call the gp again tomorrow and discuss the suicide threats. Insist he makes an emergency referral to camhs. It keeps ds on the gp radar.

Ds1 is almost 11 and sees a psych monthly at the mo. He is similar temperament, but his anxieties and phobias come out differently and aren't attendance based. Having a third party to discuss with has made a huge difference.

madwomanintheattic Tue 27-Nov-12 00:18:14

<and you also need to call the school, and speak directly to the ht or counsellor, and explain that he is making suicide threats. I don't care how busy their caseload is, the child is a priority, whether it is bluster or not>

Yes, you must call dr about threats to kill himself if you haven't done so.

sarah341 Tue 27-Nov-12 08:02:41

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

exoticfruits Tue 27-Nov-12 08:15:21

I think that you do need to contact the school and the GP again as a matter of priority. I would say that it is based on past anxieties about you and can be worked through but needs outside help.

awaywiththepixies Tue 27-Nov-12 18:51:13

Have you tried eft? It's non invasive and we have found it works remarkably for various problems including anxiety. We followed a practitioner called Brad Yates on YouTube or you can obviously get something made specifically for your son if you go to a practitioner. Good luck.

fortyplus Wed 28-Nov-12 08:20:07

sad redandblack so sorry that this has escalated. Have you been to your GP yet? I do have one friend whose son's anxiety and OCD became extreme. He was taken out of the school environment and given drugs to help him feel calmer, then gradually reintroduced to school and allocated a TA one to one. No one wants their child to have to take drugs but it worked wonders - do please get professional help x

SpoonyFuckersWife Wed 28-Nov-12 08:23:22

Do you think something happened while he went away? Seems to have triggered his anxiety. Did he discuss the trip with you?

cornycarrotshack Wed 28-Nov-12 08:25:32

OP you can ask your GP to refer you to CAMHS if you haven't already done so.

Young minds is a really good website - they also have a section for children which ds could read through.

If you phone them they can phone you back and do a confidential consultation.

Pourquoimoi Wed 28-Nov-12 08:37:02

Sorry can't help much as whilst we have had anxiety issues with DS (also 11), they are not in the same level as your son.

I can second re book that toffeewhirl suggested though, we have used that and found it useful.

I also wonder if he really believes you are now better and if he deep down thinks you are still ill?

Good luck with it all.

redandblack Wed 28-Nov-12 10:18:08

Thanks for all the messages and support xx

My son got anxious before he went on the school trip earlier this year - it seemed to be the idea of being away without contact for 5 days and that the week was full of physical challenges and activities (he hates sports!) I think this is a general anxiety he has which surfaces at times of high stress for him, such as the school trip, changing schools and it has grown to be around more often than not now even if there no longer seems an obvious reason.

GP was unhelpful and said waiting list for help on NHS was 8 months plus so we are going private (bloomin' expensive!) not about to start at fight to get the help on NHS as DS needs help right now.

I do think DS needs to talk through his feelings about me and his dad splitting up and my illness - sure these have had an effect on his anxiety - hoping this private doc will help now with some CBT, we see him again on Saturday.

Got DS to school by 9 today, an improvement on the 10.30 - 11 we have had in last few days. He was stressed and begging not to go but calmer than last few days. I have started a reward for every time he fights through the anxiety to do something and he is responding to the idea that we recognise the effort he is putting in rather than punishing him or getting angry when he is refusing to do something. Trying to stay firm, consistent, positive and finding lots of fun things to do during the evenings to balance up the bad moments of the days! Oldest DS is being lovely, very caring towards his brother and being understanding about the chaos this is sometimes bringing. Oh my goodness these are difficult days though.

ToffeeWhirl Wed 28-Nov-12 10:28:10

That's really brave of your DS to go into school today. It's lovely that you are rewarding him for his efforts, op. And what a caring older brother he has too.

I'm disgusted by your GP's response. I suppose waiting lists vary (ours was three months), but we were given an emergency referral to CAMHS when things escalated with DS1 and seen within a couple of days.

fortyplus's post reminded me that DS1 was given Prozac when his anxiety went out of control, although that was also to alleviate his OCD. I do know of other DC who have taken it and found it very helpful. I held out against medication for a long time, but in the end it seemed cruel not to give DS something that would help his suffering (which it did).

I do understand how exhausting and upsetting this is for you. Look after yourself too.

redandblack Wed 28-Nov-12 10:38:30

The idea of medication seems so scary, I am not against the use at all but just seems such a worry when they are so young and their minds still developing. The private doc we saw said he didn't think it was needed with DS and from our first visit that CBT would be really useful from what we and DS were telling him. Good to know there are different alternatives though if this doesn't work. Took prozac myself after a bout of postnatal depression so know it works...

ToffeeWhirl Wed 28-Nov-12 12:24:25

I know and, to be honest, it still troubles me, but DS can't even go out of the house without it atm. I agree that you should try CBT first, although, if the anxiety is really bad, the two can work together. I'm glad you have a doctor that you like and trust, although I'm still angry on your behalf that you are having to pay.

MistyB Wed 28-Nov-12 12:51:03

I would also recommend trying Bach Flower remedies. You can get fairly easy to read books in Health Food shops or try googling an online recommendation. The best thing would be to find someone who can advise you but it is fairly easy choose remedies yourself. They are recommended for difficult times in life, times of transition etc and work well with children. I've used them with a very anxious 4 year old, child with crippling fear of bugs, myself on numerous occasions and the whole family when we moved house.

redandblack Thu 06-Dec-12 09:40:17

Had a difficult morning with DH, he was very anxious and angry this morning and everything was a battle, from getting changed, having breakfast, getting coat on, getting him to actually get in the car...

I try and keep calm and understanding (which really, really I am, I can see how much he is hurting) but it is so tough and I am finding this so very hard. I lost my patience this morning and yelled at him because he just point blank refused to get in the car and I had three other boys waiting inside wanting to go to school - it was -2 and I was dreading the icy roads...only came out the house when I threatened to get the other boys out and bring them to him so he could explain why we were going to be late. Don't feel good about that but nothing else was going to work...

The doc we have started seeing says I am doing all the right things but it just feels like I am putting him through torture making him go to school when he is feeling so distressed and it breaks my heart each day. He is too young at 11 to have to go through all this and I wish I could take it all for him instead.

Seeing doc again on Saturday, DH like him and is open talking to him about everything so it has been a good start. Counting the days down to the Christmas holidays so we can all have a break from the constant stress - only a couple of weeks but give us a chance to recharge our batteries.

BeginningtoffeealotlikeXmas Thu 06-Dec-12 10:26:46

I'm sorry, red, I remember how hard it was with my son when he was like this about school. It is unbelievably stressful and upsetting for both of you. Don't blame yourself for yelling at him this morning or for making him explain to the other boys why they were going to be late. You were pushed to the limit and it's no bad thing for your son to see how his behaviour affects other people.

We have used the impact of my son's behaviour on others as an incentive to help him overcome his fears sometimes and I don't think that's wrong. He was invited out to a meal in a restaurant with his friends once and panicked at the last minute and wouldn't go. He had made a commitment to meet one of the boys at the station first and we couldn't contact the boy to tell him my son wouldn't come, so we insisted he go for the boy's sake. He did go, had a wonderful time and came home full of pride that he'd done it.

Are you receiving any support from the school now? They should be providing your son with reassurance and praise each time he goes in.

I didn't mention it before, but we eventually took my son out of school because it was too stressful for him. We tried everything first - CBT, medication, etc - but in the end it was so awful for all of us that we deregistered him and I now home educate. I'm not saying this is what you should do (possibly it's not what you would want at all), but it is an option if you feel a period without stress is what you all need.

ISingSoprano Thu 06-Dec-12 10:43:00

My dd was very anxious around the transition to secondary school and she found year 7 very stressful and got anxious about just about everything. I have no real words of wisdom to add, you are obviously doing all you can to help your ds. I just wanted you to know that I too have been there - my dd is now in year 10 and while she still has her moments things are much, much better.

mummytime Thu 06-Dec-12 11:13:53

I've only just seen your thread.
If you DS threatens Suicide of self-harm again, I would just take him to A and E for an assessment (especially if it seems at all serious).

Do you have regular contact with the school? Is your main point of contact the SENCO or the head of year? Do keep updating them on what is going on, it is very easy if you don't contact for a while for them to think things are getting better.

redandblack Thu 06-Dec-12 14:30:13

Thanks for the replies, it's good to hear other experiences and advice smile

School have been good but they seem a bit stumped as what to do for the best, they asked for permission to talk to the doc we are seeing so we can all work together on helping ds. They seem to want to push him a little, not letting him miss some lessons as he was allowed to a few weeks ago - probably for the best but ds is finding it tough going of course. We meet a support teacher every morning instead of ds going to registration and she eases him into school and off to his first lesson. Plenty of good will at the school to help but not sure they know quite how to at the moment.

Home schooling would be a last resort really, I work from home full time so could not pay the bills and be able to teach my son - plus not sure I would do a very good job of it ;)

Sometimes shouting at them, when usually you are able to keep a calm face on things, can be beneficial. It can help them see how it is affecting you and your emotions. A little like a slap around the face for hysterics.
And sometimes it can remind them that you are an actual person and not just their kicking board.

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