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Feeling desperate - 11 year old DD doesn't want to go to school

(20 Posts)
ChampagneCharlotte Wed 14-Oct-15 09:33:30

My normally happy and healthy DD is refusing to go to school - not that she sees it as that: she says she feels sick, that I don't understand her and must hate her because I don't believe there is anything wrong with her. She has been at secondary since September, and throughout year 6 we had some awful mornings when she would say she felt ill, then get increasingly hysterical and be unable to be reasoned with and would not go to school. In the end I got her teacher involved, which helped a lot and she would talk to her on those days and get her to come in to school, and she would be absolutely fine. I hoped it would all stop once she started secondary, especially as she settled in quickly and seemed happy, and has lots of new friends. But after an upset with an old friend one weekend, she got into a complete state on the Monday morning, said she felt sick and soon got herself really worked up into a state of hysteria, crying and saying she couldn't go to school. I decided to nip it in the bud and called the school pastoral team, who were brilliant, I got her into school and all seemed well. This morning (Wednesday) it has started again - she was a little under the weather on Monday, and very tired as she had been awake coughing in the night, so I let her rest up at home, and she was fine, went into school happily the next day. Today she says she feels sick, her throat hurts, her head hurts...but I am sure there is absolutely nothing wrong. She refused to get up, and it soon turned into a shouting match, my fault I know, I should have tried to stay calm. Anyway, she is still at home, says I hate her, and won't go to school. Has anyone else been through this? I am at my wits end, feel like an absolute failure as a parent. I would like her tutor at school to know about this, but I am worried she will be labelled a 'problem.' I feel I am giving in to her, but I cannot physically drag her to school.

poppycomeshome Wed 14-Oct-15 15:23:42

I don't think for a minute your dd will be labelled a problem if you raise this with her tutor, you really need their help and support if you are to find a way to get over this situation. Can you call the school for an appointment today? It would be my starting point for sure.
Is your dd being bullied in any way? It sounds like a classic case with the stomach aches and feeling sick. Can you ask your dd what is happening at school?
Is she frightened? Is it a large school? What has been her experience so far?
I would give her a plain exercise book and ask her to write you a letter inside and leave in on your bed, a way for her to express her feelings whenever she needs to, a confidential tool that you can share between you if you are having problems with her opening up to you. This gave me invaluable insight into my dd's life. It must never be used for telling off, reprimanding but can be so useful at times like this to finding out what is really happening.
Can you leave early and organise a different routine in the mornings? Just an idea, we used katy perry music, pancakes (!!) an changed the atmosphere completely so it was all out disco fun to keep the mood light and happy. We changed the route to school, and arriving early before the other children was really good, but this will only work if there are not serious problems in the background. I think you need to get to the root of the problem, her reaction is very extreme in my view given her age.

ChampagneCharlotte Wed 14-Oct-15 17:29:06

Thanks for your lovely reply, poppycomeshome! I really like your notebook idea, my DD loves writing so I think I will try this with her. She says there is nothing wrong at school, but perhaps writing would give her the chance to let me know if there is anything. I will speak to her tutor. She is usually such a happy girl, but we have mornings like today's regularly enough to be a problem.

brokenvases Wed 14-Oct-15 17:34:15

Please don't worry about raising it with her form teacher or the pastoral staff. We have had similar issues with dd. In dds case there was no bullying but she hit a point where she became completely overwhelmed at the change of routine/homework levels/size of school etc.

Lupinsarefab2015 Wed 14-Oct-15 17:35:51

I really feel for you as I have the same problem with my 14 year old DD. She also says she feels sick, she's terrified of being sick at school etc etc.

Not every morning, but random ones, with no rhyme or reason. My heart sinks when I wake her up in the morning, hoping it will be a 'good day'. Feel so powerless, as like you say, you can't physically drag a child of that age to school. And I think some friends of mine are a bit judgy thinking I'm giving in to her 'bad behaviour'.

However, I've now decided on a kind, understanding approach, rather than a cross punishing one! As after all this is a mental health issue really, anxiety, sick phobia. This morning was a bad one, she was fine until about to leave the house then had a wobble. We compromised by me agreeing to work at home, she said she feels better knowing I am nearby should she need me, and I managed to get her there.

Def speak to your DDs tutor, you need school to be aware that it isn't just that she can't be arsed to go in. My DDs school has been very supportive. We've all had several talks with her but she insists nothing is wrong at school, no issues, just this anxiety, which she is embarrassed about, says it makes her feel as though she's odd and weird.

Anyway, I'm rambling on about mine - just to let you know you're not alone and I understand how truly stressful this can be.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Wed 14-Oct-15 17:38:22

Your responce should be clear and short. You are going to school. Dont engage. You are certain that shes well and ok at school. Dont get drawn in. You are not failing you have a pre teen.

ChampagneCharlotte Wed 14-Oct-15 21:02:03

Thank you for all your replies, I can't tell you how much better it makes me feel to know I'm not alone! I've just given her a goodnight cuddle - tomorrow is another day! smile

poppycomeshome Thu 15-Oct-15 13:04:54

It could simply be the change of school has made her anxious and awakened old feelings of not wanting to go/fear from younger years. It could also be the extra work/expectation at this age, and it IS a big deal going to secondary school, I think everyone remembers feeling very daunted at times.

Is she feeling pressure at school to perform well? I am sure you will uncover it in time. As far as I can see you are supporting her so much, and at some point she will hopefully turn the corner! And then you will be onto the next issue..spots/hormones etc/social media/ It never ends! Have a nice glass of wine, stay relaxed and just think she will finish this stage of her life in a few years, and be moving in a direction she chooses (perhaps remind her of this) I couldn't wait to reach 16 so I could flex my decisions and new found independence, and it isn't that long away for you. Take care x

blotblob Thu 15-Oct-15 13:06:23

Hope today has gone well for you. I had a similar experience with my daughter which at first I mistakenly put down to her "playing up". Mismanagement at an early stage of the anxiety possibly prolonged it. Make sure you take advantage of any support offered and try to get access to books or help sheets that can help you deal with school refusal. Some of it can seem a bit obvious but when you are in the thick of things you don't always think clearly. Do liaise with the school, they may have more experience of the problem or at least they are a pair of eyes for you when your DD is in school. You need techniques for yourself as well as your DD as it can be very stressful and frustrating. There will be a reason for it and hopefully the notebook idea will shed some light on it. Is she still seeing friends outside of school? It is important to keep social contact going for her. Good luck, she is still very young.

ChampagneCharlotte Fri 16-Oct-15 08:54:17

Yesterday and today have been fine, back to her happy self. I have a suspicion it has something to do with PE, so I'm going to work on that. I'm trying to keep things in perspective, like you say poppycomeshome, it'll be on to the next thing soon, and I'm sure I'll be wishing all I had to deal with was this! smile blotblob was there something thing that you found worked really well with your daughter? I know I've got to work on my response, I'm not normally a shouty person but I get so wound up it's hard not to run screaming down the street!

blotblob Fri 16-Oct-15 10:59:19

Hi, I am afraid there wasn't one single solution and obviously what works for one child may not work for another. As with most problems the key was to be patient and calm. Management of the anxiety has been the solution really, I know I use the word management a lot but the more I think about it the more I realise a controlled response was the first step in making things better in our case. I found with my DD she would mirror my response, if I was screaming she would scream louder. Also keep your daily routine going so that your DD understands that opting out when you don't like something isn't an option. Hope things keep getting better for you and your DD, it has been a long first term for them with lots of changes to get used to, sometimes I think we expect things from our children that we wouldn't like to have to deal with ourselves and teaching them how to manage the good, the bad and the ugly is a valuable life skill (one I am still learning!).

Mrsmoneyworries Fri 16-Oct-15 15:22:54

Sounds like a real case of anxiety - this is a huge issue for her. I'm so happy she has a lovely parent who cares, and isn't just "right, stop messing around and being stupid. You are going etc etc etc"

I ended up with huge anxiety issues at her age, after a spout of bullying. The bullies weren't dealt with and I was so anxious that I would lock myself in the bathroom every day when I knew the teacher would be due to collect me and take me in (this was many years ago now). It was the worst experience of my life and it completely ruined the rest of high school.

Everyone has said it already, so I've got nothing to add. I just wanted to say that she really isn't doing this to wind you up. I can speak from personal experience and there's nothing worse than someone who is telling you to do something when your head and body is telling you it's impossible.

wine cakeflowers for you.

Georgethesecond Fri 16-Oct-15 15:29:15

If you suspect it may be PE related, OP, I'd suggest you keep a diary of when it happens (without her knowing of course).

Lupinsarefab2015 Fri 16-Oct-15 15:40:54

Glad she's gone in ok the rest of this week. Good idea to keep a diary to see if there's a pattern.

My DD refused to go in yesterday, felt sick, anxious, I couldn't budge her. She was fine today, went off quite happily. I've just had a call from school to say she ended up in the sick bay earlier this afternoon saying she felt sick, she sat there for a while and a lovely member of staff reassured her and convinced her go back to her maths lesson. She checked a few minutes later to make sure she was there and she wasn't, she was sitting in the toilets sad.

The school want a meeting with us next week and I can sense their attitude is changing towards this, they were far less sympathetic about her anxiety and sickness, much more of a message that this is completely out of order behaviour, very defiant, and has to stop.

Which I agree with, but if she has genuine anxiety about sickness, and it isn't just a case of 'can't be arsed', then what do we do. Doc apt next week as well..

She's not home yet but will have another chat with her ..... is it too early for wine!!

Goldmandra Fri 16-Oct-15 15:42:56

Don't confuse anxiety with bad behaviour.

She isn't playing truant. She is upset and anxious and unable to attend and she's turning to you for help.

It may be that she knows that school is stressful and difficult but doesn't know the reason behind it herself.

One thing she really needs is to know that you are on her side and will help her get whatever support she needs to get over this problem.

Try to make some times to talk, shoulder to shoulder, e.g. preparing veg or in the car, and make sure you do more listening than talking. Help her to think through her school experiences and talk about the bits she likes as well as the bits she finds hard. Ask her what she thinks the school could do to help her.

Also keep communication with the school as open as possible but make it clear that you won't be punishing her and you expect them to support her.

Ask the school nurse if they can refer her for counselling.

Also, help her to learn some relaxation exercises so she can begin to manage the anxiety and stop it overwhelming her. There are lots you can do in school without people around you noticing.

I hope you find a way to resolve this soon.

CityDweller Fri 16-Oct-15 15:45:16

Just to add - I had this at her age. Feeling sick in the mornings before school. It was a symptom of anxiety for me - around lots of issues. It did eventually resolve itself, with time and some laid-back counselling.

ChampagneCharlotte Tue 20-Oct-15 12:59:51

It's so interesting to hear so many off you are struggling with the same thing too. Lupinsarefab2015 I hope your DD gets the support she needs from school. I have decided to stay completely calm every morning, and this morning did not nag or get drawn in to any potential argument - blotblob I have noticed that we do get into a spiral, and we get into a state it's hard to come back from, so I am determined to try to stop them from starting! I am also determined to keep what many of you have said in mind - that she's not doing it to wind me up (even when it feels like it!!) and get the school involved too if it carries on - they have been very good so far.

Alonglongway Tue 20-Oct-15 13:09:56

Went through this with DD1 and it was mishandled and prolonged as others have said. Having lived through a pretty dire experience of school refusal, I think it's key to be in your daughters corner and get the school on side fora dialogue. Does she have a friendly tutor she can chat to and try and really specify what makes her stressed and anxious? In our case I was not convinced by the pastoral workers but the form tutors were great and knew the students better

Year 7 is really really hard too. All that jostling. DD2 is now in year 11 and she came home yesterday boiling with anger about seeing a year 7 being bullied by a group of year 7 and 8. One horrible girl took his Oyster card so he missed his train and cried in front of everyone. DD2 intervened and gave it back and was going to look for him today to see how he's doing - but trying not to embarrass him

misscph1973 Tue 20-Oct-15 13:24:04

You got some great advice, I just want to add that your DD may not even be able to verbalise what the problem is. Presumably she is full of hormones and new feelings, and it's overwhelming for her.

There is a lot of pressure on at that age, last year it was SATS, now a new school, and then there's friends, crushes, fall-outs, groups etc. It's not an easy age, and they are starting it all much earlier than we did, so it's harder for them to process.

My DD is 10, nearly 11, and in Year 6, and although she's not as bad as your DD, she's getting there. So far it's helped to not give it too much attention and wait for her to come and tell me what's wrong, when she's processed it and found a way to express it.

I think you did really well with working from home for the day, that was obviously what she needed. I think often they just need to know that there is a "safety net".

Could you ask her friend's mums if her friends are going through something similar or perhaps have know if anything is going on?

"I hate you" is what they say when you don't understand them, and they don't understand themselves either. They don't mean the words, it's just that they don't know what to say or do, and then they let it out on you. It's said in frustration only.

Good luck, I'm sure it will pass, although it's difficult now. The half-term break will do her good!

ChampagneCharlotte Tue 20-Oct-15 16:36:06

Yes, almost half-term, really looking forward to a break! Hope you all have a good one, and that the next half-term goes well! smile flowers wine

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