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To talk to school about another child's family problems?

(20 Posts)
valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 00:16:40

This is a long 'un so please accept my apologies and bear with me.

DD is 14. She attends the local secondary with a girl who is a family friend - the two kids "were" pals and Mum and I are friends. The family have recently moved to our town and DDs pal (I'll call her Jane), started the school in good spirits about 5 months ago. Between then and the beginning of the summer hol we spent much free time with the family and Jane and DD got on fine and Jane was happy. However, after a few weeks at school, Jane started becoming anxious, and didn't want to go to school, claiming she felt sick each morning but would give no reason why, despite many queries by Mum and others. For this reason DD was often called in the morning by Jane or Mum and asked to go to their house to encourage/walk in with Jane, and DD duly obliged. On one of these occasions, I was told this evening, DD walked into Janes room to find her putting her fingers down her throat in an attempt to make herself ill.

After some girly-nastiness (read the rude "b" word!) between DD, Jane and others just before the end of term I decided to rein DD in and kept her and Jane apart - besides, Jane went to Nans for most of the hols. Upon Jane's return Mum told me that she was even more anxious about school than ever.

Jane stayed off of school on the first day back and Mum called me over to her house for a Mum-to-Mum chat. It transpired that Jane had finally told Mum what the problem was - that DD had made mention to other classmates of her fear that Mum was being hurt by her new partner. Apparently Jane was very upset by classroom rumour, hence the problem. Naturally I apologised and did my best to reassure Mum that I would do all I could. Mum said that a meeting was to be held this week between the head of year, Jane and DD regarding this. We agreed not to tell DD in advance.

The meeting was held and DD came home furious. She said that she had been accused of being the root of Jane's anxiety because of another comment - a childish, insensitive but typical kids joke about swine flu. No mention had been made of her speaking to others of any fears that Mum might be a victim of DV.

In fact, what had happened when this fear was raised, was that Jane had seen bruises on her Mums back whilst we were all playing silly beggars on the local rec, and had asked DD to find out why they were there. DD had asked what Mum had done and been told it was nothing, which DD reported back to Jane. Being concerned, DD had told me of the circumstances - I had reassured her that Mum had displayed no sign of DV to me, had said nothing to me, a trusted pal, and that the new boyfriend, who has since moved in with them, seemed perfectly ok so I didn't think there was any cause for concern and that we women can bruise easily in... ahem... more passionate encounters, which was probably why Mum brushed it off. However it seems possible that another child overheard DD and Jane discussing this in the playgorund, hence the rumours and possibly hence Jane's anxiety.

BUT... and this is the hard part... I get the feeling that DD could well have been the trigger for Jane's school aversion but she is not the cause. The family is one which has experienced many changes over the 7 years we have known them - not only the move but at least 7 boyfriends to Mum, some short-term, one living with them for well over a year, little brother moving permanently to Nan's this year because of his SEN issues, the new partner moving in (met off the net, invited to stay a couple of months later while the kids were in the house), the previous boyfriend having been violent to Mum (which Jane knows of and clearly still fears he will return), Mum suffering physical health and depression problems....

PLEASE don't get me wrong - I am NOT making a moral judgement, just trying to explain the facts and my reasons for being concerned. I will say though that I admit to being on my moral high horse that friends of and various past partners to Mum smoke dope openly in front of the kids and it is regarded as no big deal... and of course sometimes when this happens the kids see those people at less than their best (my kids would be scared tbh), and sometimes Mums kids see these folks unhappy/a little too frank about their problems and tragedies in front of Jane, an impressionable 14 year old.

DD is cross because when Jane saw her followed by a teacher as DD came down the corridor prior to the meeting this week, Jane started crying. However, whe out of sight of the teachers Jane is far more assertive, with comments such as "All my family hate DD" etc. DD is also mindful of the fact that it was she who was implored by both Jane and Mum to walk Jane to school when Jane was unwilling to attend and of how well they got on out of school up until the end of term. DD has now been told that she will "be punished" if Jane reports to staff any more problems with DD, which Jane did today, although when DD asked what she was alleged to have done the teacher told her that it was not up for discussion.

I have booked an appointment to meet that teacher next week. My intention and desire is not to "clear my daughter's name" as I have no doubt that she could have been a trigger to cause Jane's anxiety, teenaged girls being the "female dog" types they can be and DD being no better than most for this, but to explain to the teacher my concerns and that I think that there may be underlying reasons for Jane's anxiety. As good friends that we are I don't feel I can approach Mum on this - she will be deeply hurt and offended and feel that I am merely defending DD and criticising her and I know that she will fret and worry which will only make her own fragile health worse although my concern is for Jane who is a nice kid and one with some genuine problems.

However I feel very uncomfortable about speaking to the teacher and fear that I will be viewed as just out to defend DD, a troublemaker and that I will make matters worse for everyone concerned. How on earth do I put over that I am concerned for the family, that I feel that Jane has inadvertantly been made to feel insecure by the lifestyle choices of a Mum who loves her dearly and is a kind and good soul? Or do i just cancel the appointment and keep my mouth shut?

famishedass Fri 11-Sep-09 00:27:18

cancel the appointment and keep your mouth shut.

The school already know about the bulimia and the suspected domestic violence. Nothing you add to this will make it any better.

limonchik Fri 11-Sep-09 00:37:33

Ooh, what a tough situation!

I don't know if you can say much to the school about Jane's family issues. I would keep to the minimum details - Jane and DD were good friends and have fallen out, you're concerned about Jane's anxiety, and maybe suggest the school and you do your best to keep Jane and DD apart as much as possible. You obviously don't know what Jane might have said to the teachers about her own situation.

I would also have a word with your DD about how fragile Jane is at the moment, and that it would be in DD's own best interests to stay away from her.

valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 00:39:45

Tbh I don't think it's bulimia, more an attempt to make herself sick to prove that she was too ill to attend school. I am no authority on the subject of course but have some experience of the condition, having seen my sister go through it.

As I said, I am not covinced of any DV towards Mum either (been there myself so I know the signs). I genuinely think that there was an innocent explanation to the bruises or believe me I would have hit the ruddy roof (and the partner too if I could get away with it!).

Forgive me for the way this sounds, I don't mean to come across as high and mighty, but what makes you think that the school will already be aware of the situation? Of course they wouldn't tell me if they did, but, do you mind me asking, have you knowledge of the way things work which I don't which would explain to me why you consider that the school will already be aware of any concerns and have the matter in hand?

valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 00:42:45

PS Yes I have advised DD to keep away and to not upset Jane and she is already doing that. To be fair DD is being considerate of Jane's feelings and problems although she is mighty cross about things as they stand, particularly as the teacher wouldn't tell her what she is said to have done wrong today. She accepts though that this is for their own reasons and that she will learn of it if and when it is necessary for them to tell her and is being pretty mature about it all.

Uriel Fri 11-Sep-09 00:43:22

I think you ought to be a lot more protective of your dd and keep her well clear of Jane, who strikes me as the troublemaker. I'd also be backing off from my friendship with Jane's mum.

And, ffs, 'female dog'??!! Words fail me.

valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 00:46:18

I was concerned that the alternative to "femal dog" which Jane used might offend some people and get me booted off of here!

Uriel Fri 11-Sep-09 00:49:55

No, saying bitch isn't a problem on here.
I think it's a horrible way to talk about women though and particularly about girls.

limonchik Fri 11-Sep-09 00:51:52

Teenage girls can be very nasty to each other.

valhala - sounds like you can't do much more than you're doing. I would only speak to the school about Jane's family problems if you have a concern about her safety/child protection.

valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 00:53:43

Sorry, strike that last post - tiredness is taking over. Jane has used the minor swearword used for a female dog about DD, which is why I mistakenly thought I had quoted her but reading back I realise that when I used it above I was trying to indicate that the girls were being spitefully unpleasant in my own opinion. I didn't like to use the word I would normally say in conversation for fear of offending members or being booted off the forum for my language!

valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 00:59:04

Sorry for offending Uriel, you're right that it is unpleasant but it was the easiest way of expressing the fact that the nastiness between the girls was usual girly stuff and spite and not a major issue.

Limonchik, the problem is, IS there a concern about Jane in terms of child protection or am I being over-sensitive? I honestly think that the things which have taken place in the family over recent times are causing Jane anxiety but is that enough to express my thoughts or am I out of order, over-reacting and being daft?

Uriel Fri 11-Sep-09 01:03:32

The thing is, valhalla, if you don't defend your daughter to the school, no-one else is going to. Your dd needs her mum fighting her corner.

I really don't think your dd can be the entire root of Jane's anxiety, given her family background and I don't think it's fair to your dd to let her carry the can for Jane's problems.

I would be furious with the school - they've given Jane carte blanche to report anything she likes about your dd and your dd will automatically get into trouble for it. Not on, imo.

limonchik Fri 11-Sep-09 01:04:24

I don't think you're over-reacting, it sounds like Jane has a lot of stressful things happening at home. But, mum having lots of boyfriends, lots of changes at home, adults smoking cannabis in front of Jane wouldn't be a child protection issue in my opinion. It's still in the realm of "good enough" parenting.

If you are very concerned about Jane's safety and wellbeing then definitely talk to the school about it - but I would ask myself, what do you want to happen to improve her situation?

valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 01:09:57

I AM furious with the school Uriel. I have another daughter there who is being bullied, the school's response is most unsatisfactory and I have little faith in them. I am known for being a mouthy parent, for want of a better term, but I feel that my dissatisfaction is justified so one more complaint about the way my children are being treated won't make much difference to my reputation or to my outlook!

I do intend to ask the school to respect the theory of "innocent til proven guilty", reassure them that my girls will get a rocket if they are proved to be misbehaving but by the same token make it clear that neither are to be scapegoats for others' misdemeanours.

WhereYouLeftIt Fri 11-Sep-09 01:16:08

Jane's mum came to you re Jane saying the prob was your DD mentioning possible DV. At the school meeting, Jane had changed tack and said something completely different. DD now has punishment hanging over her head.

Well, how fragile is Jane's mum, because really she should be going to the school and sorting this out? Her Jane has dropped your DD in it, it's down to her to correct the matter surely?

valhala Fri 11-Sep-09 01:19:50

Limonchik, the family situation would be imho a matter of their own choice if it did not appear to be affecting Jane. My own views on parenting will no doubt trouble some, and I am sure that each of us do things with our kids that others wouldn't. However, here I fear that the way things are done are having a direct effect on the emotional welfare of Jane... though I am not sure, as I said its just MY fear.

I am therefore unsure as to whether I should open my heart and put it to the professionals and let them decide, hoping that with this knowledge they can better counsel Jane and lead coversations to get to the bottom of her problems or to let it be and take the risk that things will sort themselves out for her and hope that I'm wrong, that she doesn't need encouragement to open up and discuss family situations and that doing so would not help her overcome her anxiety.

nooka Fri 11-Sep-09 06:10:42

I think it depends an awful lot on the teachers involved as to whether you can talk to them about your concerns and that be a good thing. It sounds like a very difficult situation for you and your dd, and very difficult to judge. I don't think it is unreasonable to say that you understood the issue to be about "Jane"s DV concerns, or to explain about the girls being good friends in the past and your surprise about how things have turned out. I do think you need to know more about how exactly the school intends to handle things, because it doesn't seem to be doing that very well right now. So I think you need to sort out the situation as it stands with your dd, and then see how it goes on saying anything more. It is very difficult when friends fall out (especially teenagers) because who knows what they might have said and done in the heat of the moment.

franklymydear Fri 11-Sep-09 06:22:18

haven't read thread but there is no way on earth if you present "concerns" about other family that it will seem that you're not trying to protect your own child and dig her out of a hole.

All your impressions are just that - impressions not rooted in any facts at all.

How is "school" as an organisation treating your DD, what are their plans for ensuring that she does not feel a scapegoat for this other child's anxieties which you do not believe are rooted in one "swine flu" comment, or is there more to this that school are aware of.

DoingTheBestICan Fri 11-Sep-09 07:47:36

I think you need to speak to the teacher who has said Jane is to report any more problems with your DD to her.

What exactly will she be issueing as punishment for any future 'issues'?

I wouldnt mention the other families circumstances as like others have said they are just observations,but i do think you need to have a word with said teacher.Surely as a proffessional she will be able to see all sides of this?

Good luck,especially in sorting out your other dd's bullying.

BalloonSlayer Fri 11-Sep-09 08:03:17

This would be my focus: "DD has now been told that she will "be punished" if Jane reports to staff any more problems with DD, which Jane did today, although when DD asked what she was alleged to have done the teacher told her that it was not up for discussion. "

I'd be saying, well, yeah, given that she was accused of saying things before that upset Jane which we don't think she said, then it absolutely IS up for discussion.

If that statement above is literally true, that Jane only has to report problems to staff and DD will be punished, then Jane has DD over a barrel.

You need to know what's been said.

I don't think you need to say too much about your opinions of Jane's home life. Although I think you should point out that your DD was the only person who could persuade Jane to come to school for some time.

Jane is a 14 year old school refuser - the school will be very used to dealing with problems like this, and I daresay you will find out your DD has been blamed (by the school) a lot less that she thinks she has.

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