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

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 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 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

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 ...

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

sorry should say has NOT enjoyed school

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.

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

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

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?

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 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.

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.

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

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

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!

QueenOfCats Tue 05-Mar-13 13:13:15

Hi all,

I hope you don't mind me barging in on your thread op, but I am having an awful time with my dd at the moment and am relieved to find I'm not alone.

My dd is almost 14 and is refusing school at the moment. We had a chat last night and she is extremely lonely. She is a nice girl - genuinely. Not just because she's my dd. She just can't make friends. She won't be pressurised into smoking or drinking and isn't into mainstream music etc. This doesn't help i think.

A few of the girls at school have taken a dislike to her and they start on anyone who is friends with or even just seen talking to dd. dd can't understand why as she hasn't done anything to or said anything about anyone.

She suffers with anxiety and panic attacks and the problems at school are making things worse. She has also self harmed.

I don't know what to do. She has had a course of CBT with Cahms and has been discharged. I am back at the Gp this week to ask for another referral and have her booked in for hypnotherapy privately too.

I'm worried that I may end up being summoned to court and get a fine for non attendance, but I'm far more worried that my lovely little girl will never be happy hmm

gardeningmama Tue 05-Mar-13 10:25:37

Just caught up with this thread again and I find all the comments in support of mumo so encouraging. I am going to have a look at those links flow4 posted. My ds15 is at home today, I can't get him motivated or incentivised to go in. It is so frustrating. Conventional me just despairs that he is missing GCSE work and revision (and he's not really knuckling down to anything at home either) and I feel quite panicky and out of control. But then another part of me is much more in tune with Maryz's post above, thinking this is a blink in time and ds's happiness and well-being is far more important than his attendance at school. But where does any of that leave me (or the rest of us in similar situations) in the here and now? Do I spend my day feeling relaxed and happily accepting todays situation, or do I spend it feeling that I have missed something and that I've actually got it terribly wrong?

I really feel for those others of you who have posted here, you are all so incredibly strong and capable in incredibly challenging situations. My situation is quite simple in comparison. Although complicated by dh who doesn't fully "get it" and isn't there to support me in a simple comforting "arm around my shoulder way" as I try to deal with the brunt of this. Hope the week turns out good for us. thanks

Maryz Mon 04-Mar-13 22:52:04

Hi everyone, sorry you are all struggling - Kate I really recognise how difficult it is to talk about irl and the fact that everyone just says "Why don't you [insert ridiculously simplistic and impossible solution]" hmm

We all need to cling on to the fact that school (especially secondary) is only a very small part of our lives - six years out of a lifespan or 80 or more - so although it seems disastrous now, really in the greater scheme of things putting efforts into improving our children's lives regardless of school is much more important than getting them into school.

Also there are many alternative routes to education and jobs these days. Many of those are, unfortunately, not open to teenagers, but any child who want to re-enter education can do so as a young adult.

And it won't be like this forever. They will grow up, and mature, and we will survive it (even though it seems at the time as though it is endless). The way to cope is to live in the now, deal with what is happening now, stop regretting and feeling guilty about the past or dreading and anticipating disaster in the future. Manage each day, and whatever you do look after yourself. When your child is an adult, this will just be a little blip on their life - but if you fall apart that will have a longer affect.

So be nice to yourselves, tell yourselves every day that you are doing your best in difficult circumstances. Only talk to people irl who will be supportive, and ignore the rest.

Oh, and chocolate smile

KateF Mon 04-Mar-13 22:45:17

Sorry, should have said that of course I hope you can find some support for your dd. Poor kid, life is so stressful for them at that age, especially now with loans for university and jobs not easily come by.

I'm terrified of losing my job, I'd struggle to get another at my age and with three children to work around.

KateF Mon 04-Mar-13 22:40:58

It's so kind of you to respond to my slightly hysterical post-I was feeling very low. Have been out at Great Ormond Street with dd3 all day so dd1 has been at home on her own. School are really not that interested now she has been 'handed over' to CHUMS so I have bought work books for her to do and try to make time to talk to her about what she's reading, watching etc so she's still getting some education. I am trying to force myself to take each day as it comes because the thought of her being like this for ever is too terrifying.

I must try to find the book you mention.

someoftheabove Mon 04-Mar-13 20:28:57

KateF, I am full of admiration for you holding your family together. I find it difficult with a partner and one dc who is no trouble at all, never mind on my own with two children each with their own issues. Wasn't there a book called, "Who wouldn't be school phobic?" recognising that school is not an ideal learning environment for most children, just some of them are better able to "get on with it" than others. We will come out the other side, we know that, it's just a very tough journey for the whole family. Sending you hugs from someone who understands.

someoftheabove Mon 04-Mar-13 15:29:53

Yes, I'm there at the moment. DD is in the final year of A levels, has always found it hard, despite being very able up to about year 9. I keep telling myself at least she doesn't do drugs (as far as I'm aware), and isn't into crime, but the whole business every morning of getting her up, trying to encourage her to go, then finding her sat on her bed, still not dressed and refusing to go in because she feels "crap" is wearing the whole family out. She has been on the waiting list for youth counselling for at least six months, and I feel it's too late for that anyway. I really don't care if, even at this late stage, she wants to give up college, it's the thought that she has lost the will to do anything except stare at her computer that leaves me feeling helpless. College have been no help at all. They just give her tips on how to get her work done in manageable chunks. Her tutor made an appointment with her to discuss her attendance and he didn't even bother to turn up - or apologise. I'm running out of ideas now.

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