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What advice can I give my friend re son struggling at school so much he says he just wants to die?

(16 Posts)
chuffinalong Fri 13-Nov-15 10:32:10

Hi, my friend who is studying medicine at the moment has a 7 year old little boy and a 9 year old daughter. Her daughter is just like herself, very academic. Her son is really struggling at school and she thinks he may have dyslexia. He's going to be assessed by an Ed psych for this. What worries me most is his self esteem at the moment. He's so unhappy that he says he just wants to die! sad
His mum is always trying to give her children as much help and support as she can and always wants to push them forward and help them. I'm not sure if all of this is just too much for him and it's making him feel even more as if he's failing?
I feel as if I should mention this, but don't want her to take it the wrong way and think that I'm blaming her.
My own daughter (only child) has severe learning difficulties and a statement of SEN. At the moment, her son is getting a full time one to one or working in a small group. This is as much as my daughter gets! My friend still says though that the school aren't doing enough for him... Very tricky. I'm not really sure what more she thinks they can do?
I do really feel for her and her son, as she's so busy studying and away at uni etc, then every minute she has spare, I'm guessing she's trying to help her son with his school work.
I really want to advise her to lay off a bit, let him be a child, go out and kick up some leaves together then cuddle up and read to him. No pressure for him to read, just let him lay back and enjoy the story and your time together.
She may of course think that I have no experience of raising a child to succeed academically. My daughter has always been a happy little sole though and her learning difficulties don't seem to cause her any concern. She enjoys school and has many friends. We don't put any pressure on her at home and we really enjoy each others company. She refuses to take part in clubs, so we respect that.
Sorry to waffle on, but I wanted to give you a picture of us both. If you have any advice as to what to say or recommend when I see her that would be brilliant. Thank you. smile

chuffinalong Fri 13-Nov-15 10:47:06

I should also mention that our children go to the same school. It's a mainsteam primary.

I'm also wondering weather she'd like me to talk to him as I actually have dyslexia and couldn't read until I was 9! It hasn't made any difference to me as an adult and it would be good for him to know that it really doesn't matter when you learn to read, no one will know if you were a late or early reader. I've always loved books and my parents would read to me all the time. This love of literature has helped me no end and now I love to write stories for my daughter in rhyming text. So I think it's more about keeping that enjoyment and passion rather than seeing it all as hard work.
She may of course not want me to say that as it seems as if I'm saying "it's all fine, don't worry too much, there's no need to try hard, just enjoy.." Which in a way, I kind of would be?

MsGee Fri 13-Nov-15 11:06:17

TBH I would try to just be there rather than offer practical advice, which might come across as you telling her what to do and judging her (which to be honest it sounds like you do). I would be unimpressed if a friend told me to try less hard and that making reading more fun would stop my child feeling as if they want to die.

I think that hearing your child say that they want to die is incredibly difficult for a parent to hear (and I have been there). Perhaps when she says the school needs to do more she means in terms of emotional support, rather than more 1-2-1 help. I think that if a child is so unhappy the school should do all that they can, although this might not be academic.

If you do offer any advice, then I can only suggest that you pass on what I have been told to say and do when my child says she wants to die and begs for someone to kill her. Its natural to want to fix things but you have to put that aside and just empathise, to say that that sounds rotten, do they want to talk, that it must be hard to feel like that etc. This has helped my daughter a lot and she now says it much, much less. School should also be aware of his distress and might be able to offer other support such as play therapy.

chuffinalong Fri 13-Nov-15 12:13:55

Thanks for the advice. You're right, I don't want to make it sound like I'm telling her what to do etc. I'll listen and empathise. I've never experienced that with my daughter, so I couldn't really say that this or that helped her. I could tell her how I was helped by my parents but again, having dyslexia never affected me emotionally.

irvine101 Fri 13-Nov-15 12:31:20

That must be the heart breaking!

I don't have any advice, but it reminded me of my nephew.
My sister and her husband were both very academic. My sister was more of genius type, who coasted through school and ended up in good uni. Her husband was opposite, obviously clever but worked really hard to achieve.

My sister's husband couldn't take that their son had some form of learning difficulties and pushed him until he was really unhappy. They split up in the end, and my nephew has no contact with his dad at all, because he hate him so much.

I don't know what to say, but sometimes, clever people cannot see or understand that their children cannot turn out to be what you like them to be.

Tricky situation. If the Ed psych assessment is coming up soon, support her with coping with the result. But in your position, if you think she is pushing her son and making him even more unhappy, I would say something. But like MsGee says, she may not like to be judged, and she may be just trying to help her son, not just to push him academically.

chuffinalong Fri 13-Nov-15 13:23:16

I know, she is really trying to help him bless her. She is a wonderful mum who wants the very best for her children, but I think her way of helping him is by doing lots of work with him to improve his learning, hoping that this will in turn increase his self-esteem. I can't say if this is write or wrong. It would be wrong for my daughter, but all children are different... I'll have to tread very carefully I think.

irvine101 Fri 13-Nov-15 13:40:12

My sister's ex husband's approach was totally wrong for my nephew.
He let him sit down and do lots of work sheet every night, believing he would get it one day, if he keep on pushing. Well it wasn't that easy.
He ended up hating school even more, and his dad.
.

kesstrel Fri 13-Nov-15 14:25:53

You could ask her about the school's approach to teaching phonics. Many schools do not teach phonics well, or in sufficient depth. They don't give children who are slower to learn enough practice, and they confuse them by telling them to guess words from pictures or first letters. What programme does the school use? Do they use decodable reading books? How did he do on the phonics check?

chuffinalong Sat 14-Nov-15 14:44:19

Thank you both, I'll ask about the phonics. I know they use the Oxford reading tree books.

kesstrel Sat 14-Nov-15 18:17:26

There are two different versions of the Oxford Reading Tree - the old one, which is NOT phonics, and the newer one, which is. It would be helpful to find out which is in use.

mummytime Sun 15-Nov-15 20:54:01

No one seems to have said this yet but if he is saying he wants to die she should take him to see the GP ASAP. This is very serious, and he needs proper help, which hopefully will be available in your area.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Mon 16-Nov-15 13:27:36

I actually think offering to talk him about dyslexia as you have it too is a good idea. It's the right side of interfering because of your personal experience. I do feel sad for the little boy though sad

MsGee Mon 16-Nov-15 19:52:03

mummytime yes they will get a cahms referral. However I know from experience that you don't get an urgent referral unless hey tell you how they're going to do it. Even then CAHMS discharged my daughter immediately.

kavv0809 Mon 16-Nov-15 19:59:47

Sorry to jump on the thread with my own query but my five year old DD often says she wants to die, that she should be killed, or that she wants us to die in the road. Is GP the way to go with this type of thing?

mummytime Mon 16-Nov-15 20:21:32

MsGee - CAMHS are very very different in different areas. My local one is great - admittedly its a pity that you can't get to see them at the start of a downward spiral - rather than actually having to be suicidal (the latest is they are offering computer based counselling..).

Yes get her to see the GP. Also make sure she knows the Childline number.

tobysmum77 Fri 20-Nov-15 12:06:45

I think lots of attention needs to be given to the stuff he is good at rather than constantly trying to sort the stuff he isn't.

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