13 YO refusing to go to school...don't know what to try next! :((43 Posts)
First time posting here, I feel so helpless and useless that I just can't see a way forward at the moment. I have 1 13 year old boy who has been showing signs of unhappiness for quite some time. There's been difficulties for a long time within the family relationships. He is refusing to go to school at the moment. The school have been very supportive and offered him counselling and anger managemnt type courses along with confidence building activities within school. They have recognised and suggested that he has an attatchment disorder and are arranging an assessment with an educational phycologist. he seems to change his reasons why he doesn't want to go but won't talk to me about it, other than to shout at me and say he hates me. The latest thing is that he hates the school itself and teachers so they are looking at letting him move schools which he seemed pleased about. He realises that he needs to be showing willing to go and participate in lessons for that to happen and seemed ok about it. I had a meeting arranged at school today to get this sorted out for him and now he is refusing to go in again! I have spoken to school today and they feel like he is panicking because he is scared about moving and actually doesn't want to but now doesn't know what to do. I am in a complete muddle myself about this and just feel so exhausted I can't even think straight. Sorry if I'm rambling but it's so complicated! Can any one give me any idea as to why he is behaving like this? I'm at my wits end!
Write stuff down if you can't communicate with him about this. Make sure he knows he has to go legally and you will be arrested if he doesn't so he needs to make a choice.
Stay put or move to another school. My DD moved schools as she was unhappy, this was at the start of year 8 and she is much happier now and had a rotten year 7. I did stress to her that this was it and there wasnt a third school to go to. If he needs to move then move him
Secondhandrose said: "Make sure he knows he has to go legally and you will be arrested if he doesn't so he needs to make a choice.". This isn't quite true.
Firstly legally he doesn't have to do anything. The only legal obligations are on your (mumofayoung's) part. Maybe this doesn't matter very much but I think it's important to recognise this and only make statements that are actually true.
And second: deregistration is available on demand. So if you do get arrested (or, more realistically, summonsed to court), it will be as much because of your choice not to deregister as his (possibly correct, possibly not) choice not to go to school.
What is so good about school anyway? Maybe he should go to school, but you haven't made any argument why.
"They have recognised and suggested that he has an attatchment disorder and are arranging an assessment with an educational phycologist." - he doesn't want to go to school therefore there must be something wrong with him? I recommend you read this article "Who wouldn't be school phobic". It applies equally as much to any medical label for children who don't want to go to school.
Also, "he seems to change his reasons why he doesn't want to go". If you put yourself in a position of judging someone's reasons as acceptable or unacceptable, they are likely to change their stated reasons in an effort to find one you find acceptable.
Finally, it doesn't follow that a person has to go to lessons at one school in order to start to go to a completely different school. Why would they?
Oh that hasn't made me feel any better at all, I was hoping someone else may have been through something similar and could help me see some light through this mess. Thanks for taking the time to reply but think I actually feel worse now
I had this with dd. Age 13-16 was a nightmare!
She had a 'managed move' to another school. Didnt work at all. Why Woyld it work for your son? Is he having friendship issues?
I found the EWO helpful actually. Dint be scared of the system, but hearing an EWO say he had the ability to send me (mum) to court and get me a record and fine, actually helped, I think!
mumofayoung, there is a thread on here about school refusal. I can't remember who or where it is, but I will have a hunt in about an hour.
It was full of useful information.
In the meantime, have you talked to your gp? Have you explored the possibility of depression? Has he ever been assessed by an educational psychologist and do you have contact with CAHMS?
ds1 hated school - it turned out he has Asperger's and once he got a diagnosis I was able to work out what it was that he hated, and sort some things out.
There are two things you should remember though. Firstly, this isn't your fault. You are doing your best. And secondly, in the greater scheme of things, even though it seems important now, a child's education is not the most important thing in his life - his happiness in the future is more important. So while you obviously want to get him back to school, finding out what is bothering him and working with him to rebuild your relationship (I suspect you are fighting a lot atm, are you?) is the place to start.
Sorry, I have to go now, but I'll be back in a bit.
I first went to the gp last september as this is when it really started, he was saying he didn't want to get up as he had nothing to live for and he'd rather be dead, he hated me. He'd rather be in care than be with me, that type of thing all, completely out of the blue. They were very unhelpful and said it was just teenage behaviour. The school on the other hand have been very supportive, and are arranging an assesment with an educational phsycologist and trying to refer him to CAHMS on Monday. It's not got to the stage of EWO yet and I've been assured that court proceedings won't happen in our case as he clearly has separation anxiety/attachment disorder which would only be made worse with that situation. Feel a bit more positive after reading your reply, thankyou x
Just wanted to give some words of support as I have a ds15 who is finding it hard to get motivated to go to school at the moment (and it is GCSE year eeeek!) My ds seems to be depressed and he will be starting with a counseller soon and I have taken him to the GP. I get mixed levels of support and sympathy from school, gP etc, so it is hard. But my best support comes from my sis who has a 12yr dd who has ME and a school phobia and who hasn't been properly to school for the last two years. I say this not to frighten you but to illustrate the wonderful frame of mind my sis has now achieved in that, as maryz says above, your ds's wellbeing is the most important thing here, not his school attendance record. Your ds needs to feel that you are fully supportive of him and that you are "on his side". I am sure you are doing this anyway but stick with it, even if he only tells you he hates you, I am sure he doesn't but nor does he seem able at the moment to describe what it is he does feel. Give him the security and hopefully it will give him the safe space in which to explore and express what he is going through. I wish you the best of luck and hope things improve soon .
I can't find the thread I was talking about - it might have been in chat and been deleted. But there is help out there, I will keep looking.
Sometimes there is a reason for children not to want to go to school. But if it is a simple reason, he would be jumping at the idea of changing school. The fact that he is unwilling to cooperate with a move makes me think that it's school in general rather than this particular school he is avoiding.
Don't worry about court proceedings - and certainly don't use that threat to him. If he is anything like ds his answer will be "great, they can put you in jail and I can stay home without you nagging me", which won't help.
Is it possible to take the pressure off, to give him say a full week at home and use that time to try to build up some trust and see if he opens up a bit? Of course that might not help in the long run as he may enjoy being at home too much - but then forcing him to go won't work either.
He could be depressed you know - has the GP suggested that? I know they don't like medicating kids, but anti-depressants/anti-anxiolytics might help in the short term.
And who do you have to support you? You need to look after yourself because this type of thing is so draining.
Hi mumofayoung. You've got some very good advice on here already but I just wanted to add my encouragement. I like a lot of what Zinkies says at the top of the thread - if you put yourself entirely in the position of your DS, then some of what he does is logical (to him) if not to us as adults - like changing your argument to try and find one that works. If you read his actions like that, it may be easier to deal with the more unreasonable ones!
I agree also that CAMHS is where you need to be - they may take some time to chug through the system but should be the best people to deal with all your son's underlying issues. If you make it clear that he has been talking about not wishing to live he should be assessed swiftly which is reassuring for you. You are also very lucky that the school are being so active in helping him and I have to say that would make me think more than twice about moving schools! Maryz's comment that he would be more keen to move if it were a specific issue with the school seems to ring true to me. For some kids (mine too) school is just a very hard environment to cope with for all sorts of reasons and honestly, if you spend some time there, or listen to kids describe their day, I have a lot amount of admiration for them. These huge secondary schools where everyone has an image to maintain are a real jungle. If you search online for 'school refusal' and 'school phobia' there are some useful websites and books out there.
Finally, yes, I do know what you're going through. We've been there too, have been since year 8 and my DS is now year 11. It is very very hard and it feels like everyone else's kids are happy and successful! School will never be a place where my DS feels comfortable but you can find ways to make it better. You need to have a real detailed discussion with school to find specific day to day strategies to improve things. Most of all, as gardening mama says, make sure your DS really understands that you are on his side and listening to him. It will get better but it can be a long haul, so look after yourself in the meantime.
Thankyou everyone, it really does help to read all of these replies! Its very confusing...he is saying clearly that he WANTS to move schools but won't do whats necessary to put in place a managed move. I have completely backed off and just trying to keep things as normal as possible in every other way and keeping the lines of communication open, we've been out this morning to a coffee shop and there is absolutley no annimosity between us at all. I'm not expecting him to go to school next week and think because I've accepted that it has taken the pressure off. School has once again been brilliant and are suggesting he can pick lesssons off the timetable to attend even if its only one subject, if that fails they will look at other options. If he wants to sit in the library on the internet he can, if he wants to do some cooking lessons at school he can. Not sure if he will even go for that yet but worth a try. I have very little support, no friends or family I can talk to and I'm avoiding the ones I do have as they are very judgmental (parents) and I know I'll feel worse if I tell them whats going on as they just won't understand. Partners having his own difficulties (tried to kill himself last June) and part of me wonders if this has all started because of that, he's not coping, I've asked him to move out as it's actually harder having him here as all we are doing is blaming each other and criticising each others actions. Son doesn't get on with him generally anyway, they have never been close. School has referred him to CAHMS so just waiting for it to all kick into action. I know it won't always be like this and think its more important longterm that we have a good relationship than him being in school right now. Thanks again for all the support xxx
Maryz, were you thinking of one of these threads?
I reckon you might find reassurance and some useful advice here, mumo.
So it's Sunday night again. My frustration has eased ~ Thanks to the posts I've read, confusion is still here, now feel an overwhelming sadness for what I realise he is going through. And worry for what the future holds. Thankyou the links are helpful and yes I'm going to the gp in the morning. Tomorrow is a new day...a new week, I do wonder what it will bring. xXx
I have hated Sunday night for years... Fingers crossed for the morning, for all of us with kids who don't like Mondays.
Hi mumofayoung, I just wanted to keep this thread active for the useful info and support. I am in a similar position, my 13 yr old dd has severe school related anxiety and vomits at the thought of going to school. She hasn't attended for 3 months. CAMHS wouldn't take the referral as school phobia does not meet their criteria so we are currently awaiting an assessment from another agency called CHUMS but support may not be available immediately.
I am a lone parent with two younger children, one with SEN and the other with a chronic medical condition, and a demanding job. I have taken a temporary cut in hours to be at home more but the whole situation is incredibly stressful. My beautiful, academically able, talented at performing arts child is a shadow of her former self and it is breaking my heart .
This is not something that it is easy to talk about in real-life. People assume you can "make her go to school". Thank you for starting this thread and maybe we can support each other.
Yes, I'm there at the moment. DD is in the final year of A levels, has always found it hard, despite being very able up to about year 9. I keep telling myself at least she doesn't do drugs (as far as I'm aware), and isn't into crime, but the whole business every morning of getting her up, trying to encourage her to go, then finding her sat on her bed, still not dressed and refusing to go in because she feels "crap" is wearing the whole family out. She has been on the waiting list for youth counselling for at least six months, and I feel it's too late for that anyway. I really don't care if, even at this late stage, she wants to give up college, it's the thought that she has lost the will to do anything except stare at her computer that leaves me feeling helpless. College have been no help at all. They just give her tips on how to get her work done in manageable chunks. Her tutor made an appointment with her to discuss her attendance and he didn't even bother to turn up - or apologise. I'm running out of ideas now.
KateF, I am full of admiration for you holding your family together. I find it difficult with a partner and one dc who is no trouble at all, never mind on my own with two children each with their own issues. Wasn't there a book called, "Who wouldn't be school phobic?" recognising that school is not an ideal learning environment for most children, just some of them are better able to "get on with it" than others. We will come out the other side, we know that, it's just a very tough journey for the whole family. Sending you hugs from someone who understands.
It's so kind of you to respond to my slightly hysterical post-I was feeling very low. Have been out at Great Ormond Street with dd3 all day so dd1 has been at home on her own. School are really not that interested now she has been 'handed over' to CHUMS so I have bought work books for her to do and try to make time to talk to her about what she's reading, watching etc so she's still getting some education. I am trying to force myself to take each day as it comes because the thought of her being like this for ever is too terrifying.
I must try to find the book you mention.
Sorry, should have said that of course I hope you can find some support for your dd. Poor kid, life is so stressful for them at that age, especially now with loans for university and jobs not easily come by.
I'm terrified of losing my job, I'd struggle to get another at my age and with three children to work around.
Hi everyone, sorry you are all struggling - Kate I really recognise how difficult it is to talk about irl and the fact that everyone just says "Why don't you [insert ridiculously simplistic and impossible solution]"
We all need to cling on to the fact that school (especially secondary) is only a very small part of our lives - six years out of a lifespan or 80 or more - so although it seems disastrous now, really in the greater scheme of things putting efforts into improving our children's lives regardless of school is much more important than getting them into school.
Also there are many alternative routes to education and jobs these days. Many of those are, unfortunately, not open to teenagers, but any child who want to re-enter education can do so as a young adult.
And it won't be like this forever. They will grow up, and mature, and we will survive it (even though it seems at the time as though it is endless). The way to cope is to live in the now, deal with what is happening now, stop regretting and feeling guilty about the past or dreading and anticipating disaster in the future. Manage each day, and whatever you do look after yourself. When your child is an adult, this will just be a little blip on their life - but if you fall apart that will have a longer affect.
So be nice to yourselves, tell yourselves every day that you are doing your best in difficult circumstances. Only talk to people irl who will be supportive, and ignore the rest.
Oh, and chocolate
Just caught up with this thread again and I find all the comments in support of mumo so encouraging. I am going to have a look at those links flow4 posted. My ds15 is at home today, I can't get him motivated or incentivised to go in. It is so frustrating. Conventional me just despairs that he is missing GCSE work and revision (and he's not really knuckling down to anything at home either) and I feel quite panicky and out of control. But then another part of me is much more in tune with Maryz's post above, thinking this is a blink in time and ds's happiness and well-being is far more important than his attendance at school. But where does any of that leave me (or the rest of us in similar situations) in the here and now? Do I spend my day feeling relaxed and happily accepting todays situation, or do I spend it feeling that I have missed something and that I've actually got it terribly wrong?
I really feel for those others of you who have posted here, you are all so incredibly strong and capable in incredibly challenging situations. My situation is quite simple in comparison. Although complicated by dh who doesn't fully "get it" and isn't there to support me in a simple comforting "arm around my shoulder way" as I try to deal with the brunt of this. Hope the week turns out good for us.
I hope you don't mind me barging in on your thread op, but I am having an awful time with my dd at the moment and am relieved to find I'm not alone.
My dd is almost 14 and is refusing school at the moment. We had a chat last night and she is extremely lonely. She is a nice girl - genuinely. Not just because she's my dd. She just can't make friends. She won't be pressurised into smoking or drinking and isn't into mainstream music etc. This doesn't help i think.
A few of the girls at school have taken a dislike to her and they start on anyone who is friends with or even just seen talking to dd. dd can't understand why as she hasn't done anything to or said anything about anyone.
She suffers with anxiety and panic attacks and the problems at school are making things worse. She has also self harmed.
I don't know what to do. She has had a course of CBT with Cahms and has been discharged. I am back at the Gp this week to ask for another referral and have her booked in for hypnotherapy privately too.
I'm worried that I may end up being summoned to court and get a fine for non attendance, but I'm far more worried that my lovely little girl will never be happy
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