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Son unhappy at school. How to move forward?

(22 Posts)
tippytappywriter Sun 21-Dec-14 20:58:54

Hoping you can give me some ideas and perspective as I am so tired.
DS is in year 3 and not happy. He doesn't want to go in to school in the morning. He always finds changing classes hard but this year particularly so. We had some discussions a few weeks into term with his teacher as he was crying going in every day. This settled a bit. We also had discussions with his teacher about other boys not being kind and ds says they are being nice now. However since Sept he has been waking up at night and finding it difficult to get to sleep. Nothing else is going on at home and he has a good routine for bedtime. DS doesn't say there is anything particular happening at school but seems so stressed with constantly keeping up with it all. He is doing OK the teacher says. He doesn't like writing to order but he can when he wants to. Same with reading. My main concern is how unhappy he is.
I want to have a meeting with his teacher and the head in January but want to have some ideas to bring to the table. Feel at such a loss with what to do. What's available at school in situations like this? What could we try? Ideas welcome.

Ferguson Sun 21-Dec-14 21:43:12

This is sad for all of you; at least try and make sure he has a good, stress-free Christmas.

I was a primary TA / helper for over twenty years. Children don't WANT to be unhappy, but at this age they probably can't analyse what is affecting their emotions.

But I think there must be some root cause behind it. Try and think back as to how he has been during preschool/nursery, and how he then progressed through Reception and the next two years of school.

During all that time, what has he enjoyed and been good at, or what has he NOT liked, been less successful at, and worried about? Somewhere I feel there must be some incident, some accident or clash of personalities - with children, or staff - that worried and unsettled him, and now it has gone on so long that he cannot overcome his fears.

What activities DOES he enjoy and engage in? Does he have friends, both in school and outside? Does he have siblings, and what other family members are around?

What is YOUR attitude to his learning and progress, and how do you react to his progress, his successes or his failures? Could it be that, unknowingly, YOU are setting goals or targets that he feels he cannot reach?

If you clarify some of these points for me, I will try and suggest more specific ways that we might be able to help him.

Iggly Sun 21-Dec-14 21:57:15

We also had discussions with his teacher about other boys not being kind and ds says they are being nice now

Are you sure there isn't low level bullying?

Can you have an open chat with him and tell him that if anything is bothering him, he can tell you and leave it at that - he might open up later.

tippytappywriter Sun 21-Dec-14 22:02:39

Ferguson. Thank you. It is sad and I think you are right. He doesn't know how to express what's going on and it is finding the key to that lock.
He was very happy at preschool and R and year 1. In year 2 he started to feel the pressure.
He loves being outside building dens, on his bike or in the park. He also loves Lego, making models, drawing and being creative. He finds maths OK but sitting to write hard. He has no problem finding things to do - always busy.
He is very sociable. Likes to talk to everyone both young and old. He has a sibling he gets on well with and DH he loves spending time with. We both share before/after school so he sees both of us.
He does have friends at school but not a special friend. He also has friends above and below his year group. He goes to beavers and gets on well there too.
I wonder if he sees his sibling doing well (doing things he can't yet do) and feels he can't compete? I think we praise his success and tell him to do his best but not worry. I think the school ask a lot of him in year 3 and there are children in his class who are way ahead (his teacher told me this). He never wants to do his tables, spellings etc. He is lacking in confidence but is capable.

tippytappywriter Sun 21-Dec-14 22:06:58

Iggly. Possibly. DH and I have had chats with DS over the weeks and things genuinely seem to have got better...but maybe he doesn't want to rock the boat. I'm considering everything.

tippytappywriter Mon 29-Dec-14 17:44:02

Bump in case anyone has any ideas about how to approach this. Any teachers who can say what they'd suggest/try?

Chocolateteacake Mon 29-Dec-14 17:50:31

Does he go to school, feign illness, or leave scratch marks in the door frames on the morning?

tippytappywriter Mon 29-Dec-14 20:39:48

He does go but he frequently cries in the playground. I try to jolly him along and towards the end of term he was going in better but it feels like he is doing that to please me not because he is happy to go in.

iKnackered Mon 29-Dec-14 20:45:23

Have you considered home schooling him?

Worked wonders for my child. There is a home ed board on Mumsnet that's very helpful.

Elisheva Mon 29-Dec-14 20:55:49

Have you asked your son if he has any ideas/solutions? Does the school have a nurture group or an ELSA that he could go to? You need to find out exactly what about school is making him unhappy - could be tricky if he doesn't really know himself. What about some sort of counselling - just to help him understand and identify his unhappiness. You could try writing a list of everything he does at school including lunch/break etc and then get him to order it from favourite to least favourite activities. Could he change classes or even schools?

tippytappywriter Mon 29-Dec-14 21:01:38

I haven't asked him if he has any ideas. Doh! This is why I need help you see. Thanks. I think the list of things that happen in the day might really help too. What is a nurture group/ELSA? Do all schools have them? He can't change class as it is a one class intake but he could change schools or home school.

Elisheva Mon 29-Dec-14 21:35:18

ELSA is an emotional literacy support assistant, most schools I work in have one. Nurture groups vary in format but the ones I have seen are great. Maybe will say on the school website?
I work with kids with speech and language difficulties and we use the list to identify areas to work on. It's very useful as a starting point because you can then ask why they put that thing first and that thing last. We also ask them if they could stop one thing at school forever what would it be.

AliMonkey Mon 29-Dec-14 21:41:51

ELSA is emotional learning support assistant. They are TAs who have been specially trained to deal with emotional issues that are affecting learning. I didn't know either until it was written on DS's plan by the school and I had to ask.

If you aren't getting anywhere after speaking to teacher it may well be worth asking for meeting with SENCO (special needs coordinator) as their remit should include issues such as this.

Chocolateteacake Tue 30-Dec-14 11:09:40

Phone just deleted my post...

Has anything changed at home? Good or bad can make a child want to stay home (rather then not want to go to school).

Is he bored, bullied or feeling excluded at school? Is he feeling that he isn't good at some subjects and need a boost? Has he just realised that there are such things as death, war and disease?

You are right to keep it light, humourous and good tempered. If you make it into A Big Thing it will make matters worse.

A good idea is for him to have a plan drawn up (try a mind map) for getting to school on time, doing homework getting uniform ready, checking bag etc and small rewards for this (so £1 a week for getting to school on time each day). It gives him responsibility and a structure.

See what the school suggests. What is his teacher like? It may be that he just doesn't like/ us afraid of him/her.

In the meeting go in half expecting them to tell you that his home is the problem - although from what you say, I don't believe it for one minute. Remember - he is a happy kid outside if school (he plays, has friends, goes to activities happily). Its the school environment that us causing the poor kid stress and anxiety.

Good luck - give the kid a hug. He sounds scared and confused and probably can't put into words what he feels.

Chocolateteacake Tue 30-Dec-14 11:13:31

I'd also look at other schools to have them my sleeve. Tell him that you are looking to choose what us right for him - its not his choice but hours (he needs to feel that you are his rock and in control).

He will probably be great over the hold but do anticipate a wobble in the new term. He can't help it. Get up early, give yourself loads of time to get to school on time.

Chocolateteacake Tue 30-Dec-14 11:14:10

Damn you autocorrect...

MuscatBouschet Tue 30-Dec-14 11:25:53

Most times I've seen this happen it eventually turns out there were friendship or bullying issues that the teacher knew little or nothing about. Often young boys won't want to admit to it.

Do ask the school to monitor him for a day and report back. Including who is he playing with at break times and who does he eat lunch with. This might provide a starting point for a discussion with your DS.

Primary schools are awful places for nastiness because you can never escape it. In your position I would seriously consider a school move.

Chocolateteacake Tue 30-Dec-14 11:31:18

Teachers can be bullies too. Not intentionally I'm sure, but still...

tippytappywriter Tue 30-Dec-14 20:41:58

Thanks all. Before he goes back we are going to have a good chat about how he feels at home and at school and use the idea of the list of things that happen in the day to try to pin point those things making him stressed. I think we're going to write to the teacher outlining where we are and ask her to monitor him for the rest of the week (3 days) with a view to having a meeting at the end of that week. I want to give the teacher a chance to have a think rather than her feeling I'm springing this on her. She obviously knows about what's gone on in school but to be fair she doesn't know about the sleep issues and the way the stress presents itself at home.
He is very organised and we do have a morning routine and get ready in plenty of is once he gets to the playground that he seems to realise he has to actually go in!
I just hope he doesn't take going back too badly. I hope the school have some ideas to help him.

MissyMew123 Tue 30-Dec-14 22:04:17

Sometimes it can take quite a while to get to the thing(s) that are the real issue. Do talk to the school teacher or head and raise concerns. Do think about and look at other schools if that is an option for your area.

Changing somthing can make a big difference to your child's happiness at school.
We moved our DD in the end, it's not until they are happy at school you realise just how miserable and unhappy they have been. She's in y3 too.

cloutiedumpling Wed 31-Dec-14 15:36:15

Does his sibling have any ideas? If it is a small school the sibling may know quite a bit about any potential friendship issues, or if the teacher has a reputation for being very strict.

tippytappywriter Wed 31-Dec-14 22:19:20

Cloutie. It is weird you said this today! I was putting the children to bed and he said something negative about school. Dd picked up on it and said to me "Why doesn't he like school?" I said I didn't know but we're going to have a good chat about it before he goes back. I think it would be good to have her view too.

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