DS yr 11 total disaster(41 Posts)
For a fair while now DS has been underachieving across all subjects except English. He should be getting grades 6/7/8 but is instead working at 3/4ish. He is failing to do hw or revise, is disengaged in lessons, and failing to accept help.
Last week his maths teacher asked him to stay behind so she could explain something to him and on the bell he ran out of the lesson!
The week before he truanted in drama (prev one of his best subjects) because he hadn't completed coursework.
Today I was supposed to be meeting with him and the head of year. I arrived at the school to be told he had left his lesson to attend the meeting but hadn't arrived. I had a chat with the HoY and we were pretty much in agreement on strategies - talk to English teacher, what engages him so well in English, build a timetable of support in the study centre with a mentor etc, all supportive stuff with the idea of helping. Still no sign of DS. After about 20 mins the HoY went to try and find him. Came back 5 mins later to tell me he had been hiding in a toilet cubicle, I thought DS was going to mope into the room, but no - apparently he opened the door to the cubicle and 'bolted'. The HoY said no student has ever done that before.
I really don't know what to do! I am going to remove all his electrical stuff, PS, TV from his room until he has shown he will go to, and engage with, the study centre. School are putting him in external exclusion tomorrow. None of these punishments will address the problem of what the fuck is going on in his head though. I know he is quite emotionally immature and will disengage quite easily but this is ridiculous. Hoping for some advice from wise MNers...?
It sounds like he is panicking and maybe has lost his grip on what he's actually doing? Can anyone sit down with him and go through what his topics etc are, and the timeline for everything? E.g. for geography this is your 2 year list of topics, you did this topic (say mountains) and got this mark in the mock, now we are doing this (say e.g. rivers) and are halfway through it, so far we have done this and that about rivers and still have to learn blah blah about rivers then we'll have an exam. He sounds like me.
He’s panicking. Then he’s paralysed with fear about what to get done. I’ve been there.
A timeline is helpful - as suggested above. If he can clearly see what he needs to do and when, broken down into little chunks, it might help.
He sounds scared and overwhelmed.
He is definitely panicking, which is really infuriating because the meeting was supposed to be supportive. Hopefully the study centre will have some strategies like you suggested because if I tried he just would fail to listen. God I feel like a total parental failure.
Yes sounds like he is panicking and at that rabbit caught in headlights stage. My DS is similar but it comes out as migraines. Daily. In fact he was off school entirely from November last year and did GCSEs at home. Didn't do too bad considering.
He is now seeing a psychologist and we and he are understanding his issues a bit more.
With DS he gets in a panic about how much he has to do and how behind he is but he doesn't really acknowledge it. So somehow his brain takes over and 'helps' but giving him a migraine.
It started up again for DS at the beginning of November and he has been off school since. As well as the psychologist I took DS to a hypnotherapist last week. He has only had one migraine since although he is still off school. He is now concentrating on caching up with work that his teachers have sent him and hopefully will get up to date and go back in January.
Please don't punish him, this age is so vulnerable and to feel that scared he must be terrified. No education is worth your mental health, and you can do education at any time. Honestly I would have a word with head of year and maybe even consider stopping now for Christmas. He needs space, he needs to address what is going on and he is not going to be able to do this if he is feeling under constant pressure.
So many of the kids in my DD's year during that period suffered self harm, drugs and all sorts of things, it is not worth it. If you give him space and support now the worse that can happen is he does awfully next year and has to repeat a year or even consider switching schools and repeating year 11, one of my friends did that (granted for year 10) and it was the best thing that could have happened for him he's a completely different chap now. If he continues feeling under so much pressure and is petrified to talk to people then the worse that can happen is so much worse.
All the best
Sorry posted before I really finished!
I think try and get him to open up about how he feels about it all. DS can't cope with deadlines and being told what to do. Which is not helpful!
If school and teachers understand hopefully they will be able to support him.
I had a good talk with DS' housemaster and he said quite a lot of boys this age seem to self sabotage. I suspect a lot of it is pressure and panic.
What happens if you talk to him about why he does these things, OP?
Op, what does he say when you speak to him about this, about his behaviour? Not the lack of engagement etc, but the hiding and running away?
I also suspect you may have trouble getting him to open up to you, I would maybe suggest trying to see a GP, but let him know that when he is ready to talk you are there.
Also small consolation, better he has his wobble now than in June at DD1's school one of the girls got on a train for London on day 1 of her GCSE rather than go to school. I think she missed 2 papers in the end.
If I try to speak to him he will just walk away, it is literally impossible for me to engage with him. Even if I try in the car when he can't go anywhere he will just refuse to speak.
Quick q t - I totally get the no punishment thing - do you think I should just put back his electrical stuff? I know taking it away will cause him to flip out but also I feel at a wits end. He will just immerse himself for hours in his PS and that is not good for his MH either I don't think - and def not good for schoolwork.
I am going to email about school counselling now. I think if he went it would be really helpful.
Sounds like you both need a reset button in learning how to talk to each other.
I guarantee he wants to tell you how he's feeling, but he can't do it if feels pressured. Often you can get to real talk indirectly. You stick to safe topics and questions, and let him nudge towards more difficult things when he finds courage. Your main job is to listen.
You are right lljkk, I don;t even know what to say to him when he comes home, but I am going to put back all the electrical stuff because an argument and meltdown from him is going to be totally counterproductive.
I don't have much advice, but I would imagine anything which is a "punishment" could well backfire. (We wouldn't punish an adult for mental health issues). Also I would definitely recommend counselling, but if possible completely separate to, and away from, school. Your gp may be able to help.
He is back from school, I told him it was a shame he wasn't at the meeting as it was about helping him. He told me he doesn't need help, he does all his work and (quote) "The teachers are just all douches".
Apparently he no longer cares about A levels.
Can you find a magic wand, wave it over yourself, and turn yourself into a saint?
Okay, I know you can't. But can you pretend like you did?
The saintly response to his words was not to get cross, but to say "I'm worried about you & I want to help." Fake sainthood if you want more chance of him opening up.
If he was foul, threatening you or attracting druggies into your house, you could kick him out. Otherwise, you're stuck with him. Yet you can't make him do things. So charm offensive is your best bet.
Would it be worth asking him what he would like to happen? He probably feels fairly powerless at the moment but if you explain that you're there to support him with his own decisions he might be more willing to start talking.
Also worth remembering that there's more to life than A levels if that's not his cup of tea.
Sounds like my son last year. Is there a totally neutral person he could talk to? By that stage he couldn't be honest about anything. He couldn't say stuff like "I am supposed to be revising but have no clue how to make a revision timetable. I am totally sick of teachers applying the pressure."
He didn't attend support meetings because he thought that it was going to be 2 adults (teacher and I) ganging up on him and moaning.
If I knew you in real life, I'd lend him to your son. He understands now that he should have started studying properly from Christmas. Ds underperformed in GCSEs and missed out on the Sixth Form and A-level choices that he wanted. Luckily he performed well enough to go to another school but its 45 minutes away when the old school was a mere 15. If he was in a more honest place this time last year maybe we (him, teachers and I) could have filled in the gaps in his knowledge but he was in total denial until results day that his terrible mock results were accurate. I ended up drilling into him that he had to get a 5 in English to avoid having to study it in y12/13.
Jaime - that is encouraging that your son at least can reflect on it now!
I know that A levels are not the most important thing - I don;t have A levels and was not entirely unlike him at this age. I have gone to uni as an adult and got a BA, masters, and PhD. However that has been SO hard! Also the level 2 options at his school are very limited and the alternative is a bus and train journey of about an hour each way every day to the next nearest college.
This morning he refused to speak to me, I thought at first he may refuse to go to school but at least he went.
Agree do not punish him and yes you may as well give his electronics back. As other people have said, running away is a classic anxiety response. So is all the denial "he doesn't need help" doesn't care etc. You called his year a "total disaster" and you are obviously very worried about him. But people respond in different ways - his response is denial and physically running away from the problem whereas your response is to get angry with him and punish him. You know "fight, flight or freeze"? His go-to response is flight, while you are doing fight . When you get over your own sense of panic about his future you can help him better.
What he needs most from you is reassurance. Not that he will do well in all his exams, or even that he can do well if only he would try, but reassurance that whether he does well or not you still have confidence in him and that he will be fine in the end. And that you are there to help when he wants help.
It is very hard to be honest about your problems when you have a parent who is getting in a panic and frantically trying to solve everything for you and getting angry because you're not helping yourself. I know because I am that worried parent and I was that worried child as well.... some things do get passed along and even though I know what's happening it still takes me a huge effort to step back!
So, this year is definitely not a total disaster. He is still going to school. In the circumstances that's strong of him! He is achieving well in English. Yes, he is under-achieving in other subjects, but he has issues with anxiety and concentration. And he has possibilities for the future, maybe tough ones with a lot of travel, but real ones. He will get there.
There are other options in life than A-Levels yes, but in order to be a success in anything you can’t just not do any work and run away from things.
I agree that perhaps a blanket ban of electronics isn’t the way to go but likewise I wouldn’t let him sit on them all night when he should be working.
You need to sit down with him and help him get back on track and then allow him X time on the Internet / consoles for every hour he studies.
I agree with lottie that giving his electronics back on a schedule might be the way to go. Especially if you discuss with him what the schedule should be, whether it's just a fixed timetable at certain times of day so he's free to do homework or sleep (or not) at other times, or whether it's going to be conditional on him doing a bit of work first. Letting him decide what schedule he thinks would work for him might give him a bit more confidence than you telling him. And if you say "I want to talk about giving you the PS back" that should tempt him to discuss it and not run off!
A timetable is just not practical to implement. I am a single parent and often arrive home from work after they do. Then DD dances almost every night quite intensively (she is the absolute opposite and has such a strong work ethic and determination for a career in dance), so it is just really hard to police his screen time. I absolutely agree though that one way or another the message that this is not an acceptable response does need to be emphasised (but with kindness somehow!).
He was in external exclusion at school today as a result of the whole running away incident, and seems to be reasonable this eve! He has said he will be going to the study centre after school tomorrow and we have agreed I will give him the bus fare to get home from these sessions. If he does this and keeps it up I will be content not to push him too much more.
The running away from reality thing does particularly concern me though because his dad (long since separated and actually now dead) did exactly this and would invent scenarios to normalise and rationalise his irrational responses. I actually think his death was kind of a karma catch-up because he ran away from everything (literally, through refusal to engage eg with courts to see children, and through alcohol), so I hate to see DS doing the same. Luckily he has shown no interest in alcohol/drugs or I would be really worried but I think he is genetically predisposed to that kind of turning away from it all type behaviour.
Every day you just successfully get him to attend all lessons is a success. One day at a time. I have BTDT.
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