school refusers

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Mental Wellbeing
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How to respond to my child without making things worse

I have a child (my youngest son) who is now 16. He has always been very anxious around school, particularly after a severe skateboarding accident when he broke his leg and spent a lot of time in hospital in the first year of secondary school. I know that I react badly and do all the wrong things, I get annoyed and cross and have tried to force him to go to school. I have sought support, he has had a mentor at school, I have tried to get him to see CAHMS and I ended up seeing the,. I think I create more anxiety and I definately need to leanr how to support him more effectively, is there any where or one I CAN TURN TO PLEASE? i AM A SINGLE MUM WHO WORKS BY THE WAY and have nearly lost jobs due to this so my anxiety levels are quite high around him not going to school. I worry that he is alone at home, isolated and worried and I dont know how to help him, we have talked, hugged, argued, you name it.

Re: How to respond to my child without making things worse

Hi Lou

My heart goes out to you...I know just what you a feeling. I am also a sole parent and so know those stress levels well. It iis an emotional roller coaster ride, isn't it!

There are no perfect answers or miracle cures but my guess is that anything that looks like you are trying to get your son back to school is going to be met with resistence. I am not s psycholigist, but am going by many years of experience with my own son, now 17. So you might have to look at it more in terms of explaining to him you are looking at ways to make him feel better. My son would also resist seeing a psychologist because he believed she (and me) weree trying to make him go back to school. We were of course...but since then I have found therapists who are more willing to look at my son's self esteem outside of school and this has helped enormously.
So I can recommend perhaps engaging with your son in small ways that have nothing to do with school, and if possible getting him out of the house with you. If housebound, try the suggestion of just drives in the car, especially in the evening. Another parent on the forum suggested that to me when my son was refusing to leave the house, and it really helped, He still sometimes liked to go for drives...his music in the CD player of course! But he also sometimes talked to me on those drives....not about school but other things, and that was the start of him looking outside of the low place he had found himself in. Try very hard not to mention school in those drives, or else it will back fire.

The other thing I would suggest is talking to your doctor and talking over medication possibilities. I was never one for medication in the past but seeing how it turned my son around last year, I am in favour of it in order to help our kids take those steps forward and to help them learn skills to manage their anxiety, Learning cognitive behaviour therapy, which is excellent for anxiety, sometimes can only br approached if you feel just a tad better to start with, and that is where the medication comes in.

So feeling better about himself, building self esteem via things your son is interested in outside of school, trying to stay connected with other young people via the internet (but careful if the late night habits!) and then school might go back in the equation, or at least education.

What has the school said? I have outlined in previous posts how in the UK, the schools have to provide education to those who are unable to attend due to illness, and this is a mental health issue, so does come under illness. Some schools are aware of this and others try to not be aware!! So worth pushing as they can and should provide tutors or at least be sending work home. Just to try and keep your son in the loop, at least with maths and English and maybe one other subject he likes.

It often looks like a behaviour issue, which is why we rant and rave at our kids to get to school!! But it is not a behaviour issue, it is a mental health issue and your son needs to know he can get that support to move forward, without having to face school before he is ready. They would rather never go back to school as they think they will have to go back feeling the way they are now, So it is vital to step back and drop the pressure of school in order to help heal your son.
Its hard...we are pushed by society to think we have failed as a parent if our kids don't go to school, but there are different roads to an education and most seem to get there in the end, with a few twists and turns along the way.

I can understand your worry about your son being home alone. There is no immediate answer I can think of for that, but as you help him build his self esteem, he might be able to have some self motivation to do something he likes, and then approach some school work from home (especially if you explain that that will help you get off his back about attendance). So push the teachers to send some work home in those main subjecfs. Explain to them that this will not make him never want to go to school, but is part of the steps ti helping him build his self esteem and stay connected. Not too much work initially but enough that he can complete and feel some satisfaction. And eventually he will hopefully be able to face trying maybe some part days, and then full days back at school. Going back full time straight away will probably be beyond his reach now.
I know finances might be an issue but there is also private psychologists or counsellors and on-line learning. There are some posts in the forum about on-line learning and Simon recentky mentioned the wonderful Red Balloon,, which is definately worth checking out and seeing if they have something near you. As it may be, that your son cannot return to a 'normal' school.
Do a search on this site for this and see what you come up with and if you can't find it, let me know and I'll locate some info for you.

Hang in are doing your best...but do step back from the school pressure...and then take those small steps from there. Your son will eventually feel better about himself, and that is the important thing.
Keep us posted on how things go and come on here any time if you need some support...everyone gets what you are going through.
take care

Re: How to respond to my child without making things worse

Please see my post on the other thread as I feel it mirrors yours. I too am a single working mum who has had to justify myself to work when i've consistently had to come in late or leave early or arrived a tearful mess. I've had disciplinary warnings and capability meetings. I work in a school as a parent support's that for ironic!! I get it, I too was told by the camhs psychologist that this was mostly my anxieties and problems. Its not. Im a good parent. I want my child to be in school.

I put it into perspective by realising that our children will probably be working until they are 74, are unlikely to be moving out of home to buy or rent their own property as prices are too hight and as such don't need to be making a decision on what they want to do with the rest of their life at the age of 15/16. If they mess up and come back to education at 20 then that's fine.

Schools need your child to attain so that they don't carry any dead weight and so that every child contributes to their league tables, They are run as businesses. If your child isn't in school then he/she won't be attaining.

Education welfare officers are judged by their ability to keep children in school. I know that they would rather a child failing to attend by taken off role by the parent and home schooled so that it is no longer the problem of the LA.

Take comfort in the fact that by posting on here you are obviously a parent who cares and continue to care for your child in the best way you can. Don't be to hard on yourself and try to find some time to enjoy your son's teenage years.


Re: How to respond to my child without making things worse

Thank you for posting. What you said has made me feel so much better! My stress levels are hitting the roof in anticipation for the start of term tomorrow. I have had to fight in order for my Daughter's school to take her mental illness seriously and put a reintegration plan in place. I thought schools cared about their students but my experience has taught me that this care is conditional and mental health is ignored, swept under the carpet or put down to a bad attitude. All I want is for my 16 year old daughter to be healthy and happy again. The pressure, stress and feelings of failure are unbearable. So thank you for writing something uplifting - it makes me feel less isolated and less of a failure xxx

Re: How to respond to my child without making things worse

thank goodness I found this site this evening, I am also a single mum of an 11 year old school refuser, previously had 3 weeks off for an auto immune disease he is now adamant he wont go back (but says he will go to another one). and so it begins, the school are happy to suggest my single mum status is to blame "do u actually work??" I was asked YES I DO AND STUDY FOR A MASTERS IM ASKING FOR SUPPORT NOT BLAME! tomorrow we have a meeting with educational welfare (who hasn't previously answered any of my messages for support)
my son is now anxious and is saying "I cant go, I cant go" I really dont know what to suggest other than we need to go to sort something out for you, if it means a new school thats fine but we need to go!
Worried about the meeting already...just want some back up!

glad to have found you all xxx

Re: How to respond to my child without making things worse

Hi Zoe,

So glad you found us. Your story is a familiar one and that blame game, especially for sole parenting, seems something that schools do when they have no idea what to do.
Go to the meeting with your head held high. It doesn't matter if your son doesn't go as well, mine mever attended such meetings.
Dress well (dress up) and have a folder under your arm, pen in hand, and ask them what they are going to do to help and suport you.
Let them know that school refusal does affect a number of students and that it is not the fault of parent or child. The anxiety may already exist but something triggers the non return and it is usually from being away due to illness, bullying, or some other mysterious feeling thst cannot be pin pointed (but leave out the last one!!). Tell them there has been quite a lot if research into school refusal and how the school responds can be vital in how things progress.

They need to know that your son needs to be assessed to then get support either going to school, or in fact at home. The education policy in UK states that a child must receive support for their education if suffering from physical or mental health. This is a mental health issue, NOT a behaviour issue. Emphasise that to the school. They always opt for the behavour blame unless they have an understanding of psychology or have come across this before,

Let them know that from the experience of others, my own and on this forum for example, if the issue is treated for what it is (mental health) the student will have a much better chance of a turn around and be able to start attending than if it is treated as a behavioural issue. That just isolates the child and makes their self esteem plummet.
You are also entitled to some home tutoring during the processor if your child jusf cannot go.
Ask them to set up a support person at the school who will catch up with your son daily initially. Perhaps re entry part time might work (didn't with us). A new school is last resort as the issue goes with them.

You are doing a good job in very trying circumstances. Embrace your son and let him know you will do what you can to help him feel better (don't goback to school). Do some things together that will help boost his self esteem and try to make sure he still sees friends or family as socialising is very important or else they become housebound. He is probably currently confused and perhaps overwhelmed by his feelings towards school.

And well done you for doing a Masters as a single mum! Try to keep doing that to keep up your own sense of normal. And do other things just for you need to re boost your energy as often as possible and not have to think about your son and school!
Take care and I'd like to hear how your meeting goes.
Linda xx