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help - Y7 suddenly become 'school phobic'

(21 Posts)
kitnkaboodle Fri 28-Feb-14 23:05:31

... or 'school refuser', whatever is the current term. But phobic is certainly what it looks like. Started with a few days off sick with a virus - definitely had sore throat and I can attest to high temperature. Blood tests still ongoing - they are 'borderline' so may or may not still have some physical illness, but in general seems happy and OK at the weekends and over half term. Had an active half term which didn't seem to make him tired.

But every school morning is now a trauma with complaints of headache, stomachache dizziness, gasping and panting with, this morning, a full blown hyperventilation episode. We have been taking him to school to the pastoral office every morning, leaving him with them, then at the end of the day he comes home fine and relaxed again. He's managing to keep up with most lessons. Does his homework, seems fine, goes to bed happy, then in the morning it's panic again.

Lots of discreet enquires have failed to bring up ANY 'issues' at school and he can think of none himself.

Anyone experienced similar? How did you help to get over it (assuming, of course, that you did??) It's mystifying. He had a very happy and successful first term and a half and seemed to be settling in fine.

nicename Fri 28-Feb-14 23:17:09

What does he say about it? Have you ruled out bullying or work stresses.

The are website - loads of them - about this which advocate a drug regime, but this is a tad extreme IMHO.

School refusal is a lot more common than you'd imagine - I think,it's about 5% and I'm not sure of full blown phobia numbers but think they will be much less.

The main thing is not to get upset about it or turn it into a Big Thing. How is home - are there any family worries or traumas going on? Is there anything new going in?

You need to try to down play this as much as you can - it's hard but try. Try to treat it lightly as if it is not something you are worrying about. So if he says he is going to vomit 'really? Well don't be long and clear up the mess afterwards', about to faint 'ok I'm off to finish my coffee, let me know when you feel better'... If you are confident that there is nothing physically wrong, then try to be confident that this is a 'glitch' that will be worked through.

Routine is also very important. Every evening he needs to check and double check that everything is ready for the next day - uniform out,bags packed, all homework done, etc. bedtime and rise times are stable and mornings are calm and not rushed. Your key word is CALM at all times. Home is his little calm haven, and nothing he does will get you worked up, angry or upset.

kitnkaboodle Fri 28-Feb-14 23:23:40

Yes, I have to same I am managing to be fairly calm about it, as I now realise that whatever state he's in in the mornings (ie this morning having to breathe into a paper bag sad ) he always ends up fine by the end of the day.

It's just so baffling as no-one (teachers, us parents, other kids, other parents) have any clue about anything that might have happened at school or that might be bothering. Pastoral team seem very on the ball and school as a whole seems very nurturing.

And it's sad to see him get in such a state - and makes me very hmm to see him happy and lively and relaxed at the weekend, as he will no doubt be tomorrow morning. But I realise that he will have no reason for anxiety tomorrow morning.

The symptoms are very real and very physical, tho'. They just don't last and they disappear at the weekends ..

Newyearchanger Fri 28-Feb-14 23:26:05

Are thus could be something such as a sanction for late homework etc that is making him anxious.
Make sure he is organised, well rested and stay calm

nicename Fri 28-Feb-14 23:26:48

The symptoms ARE real - just not physical, if you know what I mean.

What does your gut tell you? Is he finding work hard, worrying about secondary school and exams, girls...? Have there been any major changes - for the better or worse?

nicename Fri 28-Feb-14 23:27:49

New year is right... Any big projects looming or exams to prep for?

nicename Fri 28-Feb-14 23:28:39

Or new rules at school?

snice Fri 28-Feb-14 23:40:11

have you thought of checking his phone/ipod for any unpleasant messages/teasing etc?

kitnkaboodle Sat 01-Mar-14 00:00:19

these are problem issues that I have considered and that, no, I don't think are causing him any issues. Coping with homework (even in these last few weeks), enjoying the new practical subjects, getting good grades, made new friends. The pastoral team say that they see him socialising at break time without problems seemingly.

He doesn't have a phone, but has a tablet with email on it. Would be worth checking that - thanks for tip

Newyearchanger Sat 01-Mar-14 00:09:18

The other day, ds realised he had left a piece of HW at home and got quite upset, nearly crying and said he didn't want to go on the bus... He went, all smiles at end of day . He is very settled in, very happy, loves the school, was just afraid of being told off or getting detention on that day.
Secondary school can be quite strict and I know I used to get upset if I was told off, ds i s the same.
Hope he settles again soon OP

Newyearchanger Sat 01-Mar-14 00:10:06

Can you let him have a basic phone.. He can text you at unchained then

Newyearchanger Sat 01-Mar-14 00:10:54


Auto correct, think before you correct!!

nicename Sun 02-Mar-14 14:05:19

I think boys especially get all emotional and jittery about this age. A previously happy go lucky boy can be a jabbering wreck if a homework project looms. The start worrying about homework, rules and getting into trouble.

Generally if there have been upheavals, changes or worries at home, they seem to make it worse.

Make home as calm and boring as possible. Keep everything routine and follow all the normal rules. Keep bedtimes, meal times and normal household timetables steady. Tell him how well he is doing at school, how proud you are of him etc. if he gets pocket money or special treats, make him earn them - chores, getting to school on time, keeping room tidy etc...

CurlyhairedAssassin Sun 02-Mar-14 14:18:12

I think some kids don't do so well with the sudden realisation that there are demands on them at secondary school. It's less easygoing than primary. If they generally have an easy time at home, not much expected of them and all tidying up etc done FOR them, then home DOES become the nicey nicey place to be whereas school is where there are expectations on you all the time. it can be a bit of a shock. I think the trick is not to pander to it too much. So no lingering looks of sympathy and "be brave" as you drop him off. Treat it as calmly and matter of factly as you can, as if it is all fine and it's only for a few hours. The worst you can do is pander to it and make it seem a massive issue, so that you are confirming his worries that school is a nasty place.

capsium Sun 02-Mar-14 14:28:38

I think children can also become very 'body aware' especially after a period of illness.

They need to learn to distinguish between normal stomach contents moving about / sinuses clearing in a morning, heart rhythms changing when you go up and down stairs or something and being ill.

I have experienced a little of this with mine. For a period of time would point out every aching muscles after exercise, would feel 'sick' if it was slightly hot and stuffy in their bedroom, stomach would feel 'funny' etc etc.

This was always at bedtime or when we were about to go to school ie. times which was not particularly looking forward too.

The only thing that worked was lots of patience and distraction. Eventually the complaints grew less and less.

capsium Sun 02-Mar-14 14:29:40

^Again they were absolutely fine when doing something they enjoyed.

MacademiaNut Sun 02-Mar-14 15:15:19

My DN was like this around the time he discovered his sexuality. He is about 20 now and remembers it as a huge time of personal confusion. He was so stressed out it caused a lot of physical symptoms.

Obviously I have no idea if this is in any way relevant to your situation but it did remind me if what my DN went through.

kitnkaboodle Sun 02-Mar-14 21:26:10

Thanks all.

Weekend went well. I agree that he is currently hyperaware of his body and complains about feeling funny and tired when he is just ... er... tired at the end of the day.

Interesting about it being a time for boys to be very emotional. He has been extremely affectionate to me over the last couple of months, once declaring 'I love you so much' at full voice in a not-very-busy cafe confused and being very cuddly. I do put it down to hormones and he is quite "highly strung" anyway, to use an oldfashioned phrase.

Re. sexuality, I wouldn't have said he has any overt sexual feelings at the moment in any direction. Still small and 'young' for his age, still 'plays' at home. His younger brother is more streetwise and (occasionally) inappropriate, tbh - fascinated by 'sexy' dance moves, taboo words and double entendres hmm whereas the 12 year old has never found that titillating or even interesting. But obviously he's approaching adolescence so I've got my eyes open to that as a big factor at the moment.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow morning ...

nicename Mon 03-Mar-14 12:37:39

I hope it was better today.

The main thing to try is calm, consistency and stick to any house rules you have (whether it's keeping his room tidy, taking out the rubbish or laying the table etc). It's not a big deal and if he is going to school, then that is a good thing - if he starts taking off a day he and there, then it can snowball into school avoidance.

The school will know how to handle this - let them know how you would like them to handle it their end.

StressedandFrazzled Mon 03-Mar-14 15:50:48

My DS was very stressed in YR 7. He often got stomach cramps which we discovered was due to stress. He missed many days of school with agonising cramps and had a difficult year. He was anxious socially, and liked school apart from this aspect. From Summer term Year 7 it began to get a bit better and year 8 has been much much better. Hold on in there.

KayMawson Mon 24-Mar-14 12:39:04

Im the founder of a website which deals with school phobia, school refusal & anxieties in children which you can search for or google my name. For extra support you can link to a social networking site from the website. Im also running a campaign to help all parents make change so that schools can help, recognise, support parents and make allowances over attendance issues concerning school phobia & school refusal. You can find this petition here and sign it to make a change.

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