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Sinking --- 16yr son drops out of 6th form

(43 Posts)
tinyshoes Fri 08-Feb-13 22:43:49

Has anyone the same experience please and tips at how to deal with this situation. We are so worried and time is just drifting with only marginal improvements? .........

Our bright 16yr (twin) son has had to leave his 6th form. He has a string of GCSE's all at A* and an AS level taken early. He is certainly suffering from anxiety – his concerns a mixture of ‘what’s the point of education/don't know what I want to do with my life/disillusioned with the UK education system - has become an exam factory rather than the thrill of learning that he had before GCSE's /wanting to get to university fast and then not at all..... and a whole host of all the usual teenage issues about society, parents uselessness etc ...... angry with the world and especially me his mum. It was a question of leave school or be kicked out with a poor reference .

He has gone from being outward going; very much liked at school ( and now missed); stopped his gymnastics( he has never been able to sit still); stays indoors; sees almost no one as a result; stopped reading; has short attention and can’t recall simple requests to do things; won’t talk about anything ;is unable to be self motivated in all intense and purposes acting as far as we can tell depressed.

He has been home since October and literally has spent almost everyday since (unless we take him out ) in the front room on his pc (if we take it away we have extremely anxious and angry behaviour and we have been advised not to but to ‘ distract’ him away from it – he was reading about all sorts of things but also other dross that we did not approve of- he now makes sure the history is lost so we can’t see what he has been doing ).

We have involved the psychiatrists’ as some of his behaviour early on was OCD – but they have said he is not mentally ill just over anxious. He has had a course of CBT which helped a bit – his anger has calmed a little. He looks as though he may be able to get back regularly to just helping with gymnastic coaching for a few hours a week (rather than training as he was) and this week he has done a few more things with his Dad ( who is hoem full time) eg swimming, fitting lights on his bike, cooking a meal. But we are getting no help or guidance as to how to help our son – we are just doing what feels right to get him involved in other things.

He seems to have no intention of going back to school but wants to ‘learn’, or to get a job of any sort part time or full time ; we have suggested an apprenticeship and tried unsuccessfully a 6th form college; if we pursue this more logically ‘adult way of thinking he gets angry and threatens leaving home . .

We see a boy who had so many opportunities starting to close down - he says he is bored but does nothing to change the situation - not much can come from sitting in 4 square walls.

We have been able to keep his place at his old school for him to return to in September and at the 6th form college. But that is a long way away and meantime he is in that room ... doing nothing except surfing the net on god knows what ........ We just hope this burns itself out and a light will go back on – in time for him to slot back into the education system in September.

I work full time and am aften away from home ; I am distracted by this - feel like 'my baby is drowning' and I don't know how best to protect him from himself when he had such a rosy easy future ahead of him. I know its a tiny time in a lifetime so far but now I'd thought is the time to explore and enjoy life while still at home ...... feel he is missing so much ..... with no plan, aimless. .... and not growing up. And yet depressed maybe??

What else can we do - for him and for us so we don’t add to the anxiety ( it has been pretty fraught as we tried to understand all this .... and to make sure his brother isn’t ignored and worried ) ?

Thanks for any tips at all

flow4 Fri 08-Feb-13 23:56:31

Oh tinytoes, both he and you sound very sad. sad He does sound depressed, as you suggest. So maybe another visit to the GP...

It's too late and I'm too tired to say anything else sensible now, but I will have a think tomorrow and come back to post.

Hang on in there. Other people will be along soon to give you other advice and support. smile

redcrop Sat 09-Feb-13 22:44:59

Hi I just wondered if you lived near London as my son was lucky to secure work in a barristers chambers as a clerk and it is very varied so he gets out and about aswell as sitting in the office being warm!

Just a thought xx

headlesslambrini Sat 09-Feb-13 22:54:33

What is he looking at on the PC? this might answer some questions for you. games etc are addictive and will often result in aggressive or angry behaviour if they cant get on it. i would do a search on the history and see how much time he is spending on particular sites. cant say without more information but cold turkey from the internet might be the way to go.

tinyshoes Sun 10-Feb-13 09:15:28

Thank you both for these ideas - I am new to this and just figured out how to use the boards ! Yes I do live in London so opportunties are boundless - its getting him out there to try that's the problem ...... hadn't thought of the barrister idea .... sets a train of thought on other possibilities. thanks.

We have been looking at the history on the PC when we can ..... he keeps overriding it! Apart from sites that are factually informative ( he is reading about all sorts)many of them are sites with chat that is about how he feels about life .... but some of the answers and language is urgg ! If he was to meet some of the people in the street I think he'd cross the road to avoid them .....we have discussed these sites with him and his brother and they say they filter out the yuk stuff to find the helpful things for them. To dig into the the site more you need passwords etc ..... I suppose I could try doing it myself to get a better idea of what goes on ...?

We are going to try PC cold turkey today ...... I'll let you know how it goes ..... not looking forward to it as previously ended in awful row and him walking out and threatening leaving home .... got a list of jobs he and his Dad are going to have a go at outside ... I hope ..( I have to work today so can't gently nudge along .... ).

Also going to try a 'living agreement' ( ie house rules) for all of us ..... given the boys forward warning so they can think about what us adults need to do to too! His brother saw the draft and commented on it ..... quite good comments really but the son who is struggling didn't repsond well to the idea at all .... hoping to sue it to give a better structure to his day as otherwise he has little to get out of bed for or look forward to

.... wait to see .... today's another day ... trying to be hopeful this will all end soon .... his eyes have darker and darker rings under his eyes/sunken so sure he needs better treament for depression ;seeing docs again for umpteenth time next week .. has anyone managed to get second opinions via NHS before for mental illness?

many thanks .... I appreicate being able to share this ..... living in an all male house is not condusive to much conversation or problem solving of the mind/emotions!!

lljkk Sun 10-Feb-13 09:45:01

In the olden days boys like him were packed off to the army so that they could grow up a bit.
You've got to do something. I don't understand how he can over-ride things on the PC, does he have the admin password?

tinyshoes Sun 10-Feb-13 12:13:34

If only we could - he does need that shock treament - hasn't a clue of how good life is at home - all provided for .Thinks he can survive all alone in the woods but never actuallly goes.I am sure he could for a while and then he'd come home. Looked at camps etc - but due to health and safety they are quite tame really! He's done Duke of Edinburgh in the past and other camps- loves it - hence the attraction for him -.Likes open air etc ... mostly as its peaceful and where we have all been happiest and of course no work/responsibilities etc ...... Am looking into though thinking may be a way of kick starting him again .... most not to summer - so long away- and maybe better if he does when its cold and ughh !! Tough love idea.Does anyone know of any - looked at Bear Grylles - very costly and he's too young still. Needs to be 17.

Going to get husband onto the administrator idea ..... a good one!! I thought husband was the administrator ..... so don't know if son has found the password.

many thanks - feel better doing s mething rather than waiting which is what docs do ...

secretscwirrels Sun 10-Feb-13 15:18:46

tinyshoes oh I do feel for you it sounds as though you are not getting any help from the "system"
Just a few thoughts.
He is a twin - how is his brother doing?
It truly sounds to me as though he is clinically depressed (disclaimer that is not a qualified medical opinion).
I am reading between the lines that the school he left was a school sixth form and perhaps highly academic as he did AS in Y11? I can see how intensive exam factory study can take the joy out of learning.
Sixth form colleges are very, very different. The ethos is much more like university and there are few of the petty rules associated with school.

Have you looked at colleges that specialise in outdoors stuff? Maybe tricky in London but agricultural colleges offer all kinds of courses that might appeal to his inner Bear Gryls.

Having said that his health is more important than his studies at the moment and you need expert advice.

tinyshoes Sun 10-Feb-13 19:20:42

Thanks for idea on outdoor type college will - check out ....

Other son ok .... been struggling and has been hard but these last few weeks seem to be clicking in .... taking responsibility. He's very worried about his brother though and can't find out what is the mater. Finds conversation with unwell son hard.

Definitely going back to Doctors - not happy and will ask for second opinion. We used private for speed on GP's recommendation .Not sure where that leaves us.

mumblechum1 Sun 10-Feb-13 19:45:24

My ds goes through depressive phases, usually just for a couple of months in the depths of winter. He's also deeply unhappy in his sixth form, luckily only a few months to go.

One of the things which helps him is lots of exercise, he runs for four miles a day but the absolute love of his life is being in the Territorial Army. He's away now for half term in Catterick, doing weapons handling, sleeping (or not!) in the snow,going for runs with massive weights on his back etc etc.

I realise your son is too young to go in the TA, but if he likes outdoorsy stuff maybe he'd like the Army Cadets? DS didn't do cadets but I think it would be great for your ds in that it would get him out and learning useful stuff.

tinyshoes Mon 11-Feb-13 08:18:02

Unfortunately he's a pacifist .... but I think there are other organisations like this that aren't quite so related to training for the armed services..... will dig around ...
thank you.

flow4 Mon 11-Feb-13 09:35:37

One thing strikes me, tiny... Because you're not sure what's wrong, you're stuck between two very different sets of reactions and courses of action, that do in fact (at least partly) contradict each other...

You say "he does need that shock treatment - hasn't a clue of how good life is at home" and the "tough love idea" appeals. (And I really do understand the appeal!) But if he is actually clinically depressed, then this approach is unfair and won't work. He doesn't need 'tough love', he needs counselling, and meaning/purpose to his life that he has found, and perhaps some kind of medication. Your DS may feel like you're judging him for moods he can't help. But if on the other hand he is being lazy and entitled, then 'tough love' might work. confused It's a very hard call.

You say you feel better 'doing something', so here are some practical ideas... smile

I notice you say your DH is home full-time and has the flexibility in his day to be able to do activities with your DS...? Then I suggest that they start the day regularly with some sort of exercise - whether it's a walk or run, a swim or a trip to the gym. Exercise releases endorphins as well as adrenaline, and is very helpful for depression. And if DS is up and about, and has had an energy boost, he's less likely to go back to bed/games console...

Also, I agree going back to the GP is a good idea. Ask for a referral to CAMHS. Meanwhile, I know someone who recommends this online CBT 'training programme' . It's free, might help him reflect on his feelings, and might give him a bit of support while he waits for counselling... It might even suit him better than counselling if (like most teenage boys) he's not fond of talking about feelings.

The website has loads of opportunities - I believe it has every apprenticeship in the UK. You can search by topic or by area/postcode. It might help give you (and him) ideas.

I second the idea of an FE college rather than school. A lot of kids find school does not suit them. My own son got into a terrible downward spiral from Y10-12, but is now back and re-engaged (mostly hmm ) in a BTEC course at an FE college. He says he feels like "the last five years were a total waste of life"; and personally, I don't think I appreciated how bad school made him feel until I could see him recovering his confidence and self-esteem, more than a year after he 'escaped'.

I know you will have pushed hard to get his school to agree to keep a place open for him, but really, I would seriously consider talking to your son about this, and withdrawing your request to keep the place open. It may be that the thought fills him with such dread that it keeps him miserable and depressed. It might be that if you 'freed' him from this dread and said, "OK, we can see that isn't what you want. You dn't have to go back there. But you do have to do ^something else^" it would give him fresh energy and motivation.

I didn't find a 'magic wand' - last year was a nightmare tbh - and I think maybe it just takes time. It's very common for kids to 'waste' a year some time between 14-19 - there's even an extra year 'officially allowed' in free ft education, because it's so common!

Ultimately, I think kids need to find something - anything - that engages them and gives them a bit of a buzz. Once they do, they can put their energy into that, and just 'tolerate' everything else. smile But if they don't have that buzz, everything else just feels meaningless.

Last but not least, I also suggest that you make some changes. My first thought was that you sounded sad. If you think there's some truth in that, then I'd say you need to re-think your life and add something(s) that make you happy. Teens may seem totally self-absorbed, but actually, many of them pick up on it if their mums are unhappy, and it makes them stressed and unhappy too. Also, doing nice things for yourself - whether it's a coffee with friends, a new hobby, a swim, sauna, massage - whatever - will help you deal better with the stress of worrying about your DS!

Good luck with it all. smile

mumblechum1 Mon 11-Feb-13 10:35:02

That's a lovely helpful post Flow!

mercibucket Mon 11-Feb-13 10:43:12


as well as these ideas can i also suggest a few blood tests and a good supplement like floradix (iron and vit b12) plus high dose vit d3. we see big mood changes with our eldest when he is low in vit d or iron

tinyshoes Mon 11-Feb-13 22:55:39

Wow - thank you for all this great advice!.Flow4 you have it spot on ... that's just the way it is - we are torn between tough love and the more medical route. Think we will be gentle and keep the tough love for later if it's needed.
I know our son is a good, sensible boy and will do the right thing - when he comes out of this.

You're right I do need to show I am not so anxious and happier( really hard for a Mum whose son is clearly hurting ) ..... going to start with a bit more time with hubby as he has been getting zero attention and is as equally stressed out. Then friends as have seen very little of them other than when I have been in tears struck with another bombshell ( son was found on tramlines in train tunnel - its why I am sure he is not well - even the police who found him thought so!). I think he hides it at the doctors as he doesn't want the label of ' depressed'. Hnaging on till 18/2 to see doctors again.

I have a great list from everyone ( who understand ) now of things to do - feel so much better ,stronger and not quite so sad.

Thank you everyone .Hope I can help others from my experience of all this too ...

noteventhebestdrummer Tue 12-Feb-13 07:56:30

Would he look at OU courses and maybe do a short one?

cumfy Tue 12-Feb-13 20:33:27

Apologies if you've answered this, but I'm wondering how this all started.

It sounds like something happened in the first month of 6th form, or alternatively in the 2012 summer hols.

Have you really got to the bottom of what that "something" is ?

tinyshoes Tue 12-Feb-13 22:24:20

Cumfy, funny you should say that – my sister has suggested as well. It started undetectably at the time back in the spring when study leave for GCSE’s started. Didn’t surface in the terrible way until the GCSE results day ( 2 weeks ish before the start of 6th form ) – he cried uncontrollably about the uncertainty of the future (two weeks earlier he’d been away for a week with his brother on a community challenge staying at halls of residence) .It went rapidly down hill after GCSE’s.I am going to try to coach him into talking or get the docs to probe as he doesn’t want to communicate with me at all at the moment – he always did which is why it hurts so much more.

trying with OU ----

Thanks all again .... trying all ... bit by bit and will akek sure I give them to docs as well -

beachyhead Tue 12-Feb-13 23:25:17

I read your thread earlier and really feel for you.

He's gone into a meltdown and it's hard for you to bring him out of it.

I think, if you can find a quiet time, to sit down and emphasise how much you are on his team, to say that it doesn't matter what he does, but that you want to offer him some help to move on from the current stage.

I think the suggestion of your dh having a period of exercise with him every morning is great.

If he's open to it, I would look at setting out a plan with him. This should incorporate doctors to investigate depression, any voluntary work he feels he could do in the next six months, any trips/events that he wants to go to (like festivals etc), just taking the pressure off the whole concept of A levels or higher education.

I appreciate that he might not want to talk to anyone, but there might be someone who he can talk to, I think you need to stress to him who he might be happy to talk to. I know my ds is a very different age (preteen), but when we took him to a homeopath, it all suddenly rushed out.

He has time on his side, being so young, so if you can say that it would be better to sort this now, it will make his life so much easier later.

tinyshoes Wed 27-Feb-13 22:25:05

To let everyone know -- have used all this great advice to extent that DH and I can get our heads around our sons' position better and have way foreward - or at least hope and the realisation that all is not lost -far from it -we have a good son and our parental challenges are nothing compared to his challenge and what other parents have to deal with . Saw Doctor again on 18th and son now going to try CAT - cognitive analytical therapy - more actvie than CBT.Son taking charge of it( he didn't with CBT - he was incapable of doing anyting much then ) So will see what comes of that . Funny enough son asked for more meat( red) and feels he is low on iron( has he been reading up?).... so trying a better diet and the idea of Floraxin and d3.Getting more exercise in too - seems to be helping ..... will let you know how goes .... cross fingers ... hopefuly and positive now .... not putting time frame on ... so very hard for me ...... but trying to take care of me and wider family and friends to take care of him . Thank you all.

beachyhead Wed 27-Feb-13 23:52:32

Thanks for your post, I'm glad things are looking a little more positive.

It will be interesting to see how his twin reacts and helps during the next few months.

Good luck and thoughts with you.

mindfulmum Thu 28-Feb-13 00:53:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tinyshoes Thu 07-Mar-13 18:22:17

mindfulmum, thanks for this advice. What I am hearing from everyone is don't fret so re education having to happen now -and let him find his own time (and accept that it may be not at all - although I sincerely hope not as I think it will waste his talent and be a missed opportunity ) .

CAT starts next week ...... he is arranging himslef- a good sign I think /hope? and will eb seeing GP again at end of March as a check - will rememebr CBT request.

many thanks.

ElectricSheep Mon 15-Apr-13 00:34:32

Tinyshoes can I ask, how is your son now?

My DS 17, is going through something similar. I don't think he's depressed but I think he is going to drop out of AS levels and sixth form. I'm worried sick and looking for ways to get through to him. Any tips by any chance?

Distraughtmum1205 Tue 14-Feb-17 21:29:37

I'm sorry to drag up an old thread (it came up through Google) but the original post I could have written word for word! Just wondered what the outcome was for Tinyshoes son as I desperately need advice help for my son 😭😭 xxx

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