a resource for parents
Have been googling school refusal :-( and found this forum... Am desperately worried about my daughter, and also feeling very alone, helpless and out of control....
Would very very much appreciate any advice/words of comfort or support from anyone... Am so desperate to prevent a serious problem from developing with my daughter, but not sure if it is too late for that already?? Are we already on that path? Is there anyway back...?
Anyway, the situation. My daughter is 12, nearly 13 and in year 8. For the last five weeks she has been into school very little... Progressively getting worse. It was sparked by a genuine illness which resulted in a few days off, and her attendance has been sporadic since then. But each week she has missed at least some days. Last week I only managed to get her to school one day... I was really hoping for a positive 'new start' tomorrow... But it seems very unlikely as she is telling me today that she really doesn't feel able to go to school tomorrow. She won't elaborate much, when I ask what she is anxious about she says 'everything' ... I have tried every approach I know and nothing seems to be working.... We have got to the point tonight where she is getting angry and defensive if I try to talk to her about it.... She says the more I talk about it, the worse I am making it.
She is academically bright. The issues stem from social anxiety and friendship issues... She has had a huge falling out with her best friend, which has been a long time coming and unresolvable I think, and feels on the outside of other friendships groups. Although when she does make it it, or rather has made it it, she does come home with stories of who she hung out with, and the fun she has had... So I'm not sure really... She just seems to get very anxious about what people think of her, if people will leave her out, that she will be on her own at break time, if her hair is right... The list goes on....We have talked and talked over the last 5 weeks, I have tried so hard to support her through this. I started talking to the school last week and being honest about the situation for the first time, and obviously if she doesn't go in tomorrow, which I doubt she will, then I will speak to them again and ask for help.
I know people think I am being too soft and allowing her to stay off school, but that is so not the case. I am desperate for her to go to school. But what can I do if she refuses? Some days she won't even get out of bed. What can I do???? I can't forcibly put her uniform on her and drag her to school!!???!! The situation is not helped by the fact that I actually have to leave the house before her, to go to work. (Ironically, I am a teacher!!!!) so I have to rely on her getting her self out the door and walking to school. I cannot take anymore time off work :-(
Sorry I have rambled. I just don't want to look back on this moment and think, god I wish I had done that....
Thank for taking the time to read this, if you have got this far!
We know exactly how you must be feeling! So glad you found this site. Everyone on here is very supportive and understands and has some good advice.
I also find it ironic that I am a teacher. It hasn't helped when dealing with the school in many respects although it has helped me over time deal with them as I do know that there will be some teachers you can communicate well with even if others won't.
I'd go back to school asap to talk to them. Ask them what support they can put in place. Your daughter will need to be seen by CAMHS and the sooner her name is down the better as there is often a waiting list.
Have you taken her to the doctor? Some doctors see it for what it is and can be very supportive -especially if you then need them to write something for the school.
It sounds like your daughter has social anxiety - my son also has this as well as othe anxiety. Their thoughts are not rational at these times so talking to your daughter when she is highly stressed probably isn't going to work.
The advice usually given on here - apart from what I have mentioned already is - write everything down - you will need it later on. Try and keep your daughter going back even if for small amounts if you can at this early stage.
Take a step back - embrace your daughter and tell her you are going to try and understand as best you can but there is support and you will do all you can to help her with that. Assure her she is ok and that these things can happen but its not her fault.
When she is calm - talk to her (only day possible is perhaps a Saturday!!). Anger is common with anxiety as they are just so frustrated. My son is also in Year 8 and the peer pressure is strong and they are worried about what they look like. Their self esteem is low. My son is also bright - but never applies himself - so has struggled to get through his subjects this year. He has mostly kept going to school - as my ex takes him two days a week and as this has been going on for him for a long time - he has come to the realisation that he needs to put in some work (although that realisation recently dragged him down and down).
Cognitive behaviour is good for anxiety and if things don't improve a bit further down the track - medication can help but it take awhile to find the right one. We are still trying. And medication only takes the very edge off - it is not a cure - our kids still have to work out strategies to face their anxiety. Some of this comes with maturity.
You are doing all you can - you are a good mum. So take some deep breaths and remember - if your daughter is not able to be educated through the normal education system - its no the end of the world. Yes your world is topsy turvy - its a rocky road- but there is hope and there are some good stories on here of children who have moved forward and been able to go through their schooling either at school or via home education or tutoring.
Your school has to provide support for your daughter - they have to provide educational support for any child who is unable to attend school due to a disability - in this case it is a mental health issue.
I hope you can pick out bits that help - take care and have a cuppa and come on here any time - everyone understands and you are not going crazy!!
Reading about your daughter I could have been reading my own daughters story. Our problems started in year 8 and also after being of ill and changes in friendship groupd etc. Sadly we are now 2 years further on in yr 10 and my d is back in school every day apart from mon and fri mornings but not in any classes. She has hospital and home tutor 2 afternoons and the rest she teaches herself in a room by herself. She can now handle this no problem but it has been a long haul. So what would i do different?
Looking back there was little I could of done to prevent it and you are not a soft mother unless you have been through this you have no comprehension as you cant physically throw them over your shoulder and drag them there. It is a fear that becomes so big in their heads that they hide rather than face it. Just like any fear sadly facing it is the only way to learn to deal with it but that is so hard when you are 12. My advice is to get the school involved as quickly as possible, as Linda has advised get her referred to Camhs a.s.a.p as there is a long wait. Do some research into cognitive behaviour therapy and use some of the techiques with your daughter. My daughter has found the breathing exercises very helpful for calming her panic attacks. Also a good exercise we have done is writing a list of negatives about school and then get her to rigth a positive for each one eg if she writes 'people will ask me questions' the positive may be something like 'they are asking because they care' or they may not ask questions probably not the best example but something along these lines.
Another method is a fear ladder where they write a goal at the top and then write all the steps to achieving that goal, giving each step a fear factor out of 10. This healps with identifying what is the most frightening part and helps them break it down in steps. My daughter is currently under Camhs and this is some of the work they are using with her and it is working. We have also been advised to look on you tube for mindfulness which is supposed to be really good.
The best thing you can do for your daughter is let her know that she is normal, that there are many kids who feel like her and go through this and there will be others at her school. If you can keep her going even for a short time everyday then please do as the one thing my daughter has said about the whole thing is that she now wishes she had made herself keep going when all this started, however despite everything she has been through she has become a very mature lovely young woman and this episode in her life has made her much stronger.
Hang in there. We are all here for you and your daughter
Hi#Glad you found this site. You are most definitely not alone, and you are in no way to blame nor is your daughter.
These things happen, and if someone could genuinely explain why, I, for one, would gladly listen. But no one can.
Go easy on yourself and your daughter. Follow the advice given in the other posts, try not to panic.
Her health is very important and if she is anxious about something, it needs to be dealt with.
If she's willing, have her keep up with some school work any day she's at home.
Friend issues are very upsetting to teenage girls/boys. Some children would be more sensitive to falling outs than others, and it can do serious damage to their confidence/self-esteem.
Please don't take any blame for this. Neither you nor your daughter would have seen it coming.
It really does sneak up on a family.
Take care and post here anytime. Good luck.
hi jo, as others have said you could be talking about my own daughter. You are SO not alone. Others have given you really good advice - looking back, the thing I wish I had been able to do was to stay calm and trust my gut instincts. Lots of 'professionals' gave us very poor advice that only made things worse. We still don't know why our daughter struggled so much with school but the important thing I have learned is that it's a can't and not a won't - and she hates herself for it. She just wants to be normal. Our biggest problem is that she mistrusted all adults in authority so a diagnosis proved very difficult. However we have been lucky - we managed to get a Statement for anxiety disorder/social phobia/separation anxiety and have a wonderful tutor. I don't know where you live but myself and another mum run a local support group in Reigate/Redhill (Surrey) called www.cantgowontgo.org. If you happen to be local, do come along (last Fri eve of the month at Reigate Baptist Church). There are too many families in your situation - for different reasons - and something has to change. My details are on the website - if you need to talk, please do call. It is NOT your fault, and you are NOT alone. Take care and try and look after yourself xx
Just wanted to let you know that your kind replies have not gone unnoticed! I have read them and reread them a number of times and they have helped to make feel that im not the only one going through this...or rather my daughter is not the only one going through this.
Ok - update: my daughter has still not been into school. :-( her anxiety about it seems to be increasing. we have had a meeting at the school, (she refused to get of of the car and the head of year had to come out and get her.) They school did try to be helpful and supportive, mainly talked about how they can make it easier for her to come back etc BUT that was a week ago now and she still hasnt made it in. She is feeling so distressed as she really doesn't want this to be happening. She has told me that it isnt a choice... she said if it was a choice she would go in, its a can't. She finds talking about it very hard, but when she has done, it is mainly feelings of insecurity, self doubt, low self esteem etc. she finds the pretty typical ****** behaviour from girls this age very difficult to deal with. she is blaming herself for not being a good enough person to make people like her and want to be around her, which makes me so sad and worried.
I suggested that maybe a change of school and a new start could be the answer and she said, but that wont change who I am. Could this be the answer ???? or a very bad idea????
I am desperate to make her realise that this is not her fault and that she is a good and worthy person. Her state of mind and her mental health has become my main priority, rather than her education so to speak.
I really dont know what the answer is, or if there even is one??
She is feeling so negative and says that nothing will ever change, nothing can help her, and the situation will never improve.
Yesterday... as a desperate attempt to get her into school, naively thinking that a 'fresh monday start' could be made, I enlisted the help of my dad. He came round and tried to get her out of bed and ready for school etc. (I thought perhaps she would find it too hard to say know to him.) well it was a disaster, as she barricaded herself in her bedroom with all her furniture against her door and didnt come out till 3 oclock in the afternoon!! He was shocked and wanted to break the door down and 'drag' her to school. But somehow I dont think this would have been the right move to help her self esteem and social anxiety!!!!! he thinks it is all because I have 'let her get away wit it'. This is frustrating as I dont feel like I have 'let' her get away with anything???? To me I see this situation as a symptom of her state of mind....it seems wrong to punish someone for feeling anxious and depressed???? surely they need support???? Oh I dont know, maybe this would be diferent if I had been 'harder' in the beginning.
Soooooo next steps...Doctors? referral to CAMHS? Anything else??? I feel like I should be doing more, but dont know what to do!
ANyway, thank you again, for you replies and kind words of support. Really does mean a lot. Something tells me this wont be my last post on here.....
Jo x x x x x
Firstly you havent let her get away with it, this isnt the problem and as your daughter has said its not that she doesnt want to she cant go into school. This my daughter also said on many occasions. We too considered another school and a fresh start but it was my daughter who said she didnt think this would work as her problems would just go with her. To be honest we have got where we are today by small tiny steps and time for my daughter to almost come to terms with that this is who she is and that she is normal but that there will be times in her life when she will feel anxious but she now has coping mechanisms to not stop them but make them easier to deal with. It has taken us two and a half years to get this far and the journey continues.
Hang in there your daughter will get there, this is just a chapter of our kids lives that I am sure will make them stronger people when they go out into the big wide world.
Hi Jo what a very frightening and frustrating time for you and your family. You are definitely not alone, school refusal is a lot more common that anyone thinks and once you have a child suffering you quickly find out there are others out there. Thank goodness for groups like this that have kept us all sane. My daughter is 16 and has struggled on and off with school phobia/refusal since the age of 7. We have found some things work better than others and she is on medication (anti depressant) mainly due to the fact that her anxiety and resultant inability to go to school makes her very depressed. The medication has definitely helped in that regard although doesn't do a great deal to help her anxiety around school attendance. Over the years we have tried different psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors - some have been helpful and others not so, I can only recommend that you start with your own doctor, someone you trust and see who they recommend - but it sounds as though your daughter definitely will need outside help to get through this. We are currently seeing a mental health nurse who specialists in hypnotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy and we are finally starting to see some progress as the layers of anxiety are peeled away. Our school journey is nearly over, but I think it is important to recognise that this type of anxiety does not always end when school does so we need to find a way for her to cope with whatever the future holds for her. You will find also that everyone's stories are very similar. Our children all seem to have very common behaviours and react in similar ways. Pressure definitely only makes the problem worse as does removal of priviledges. I tell people who are finding it difficult to understand that it is no different than someone who has a phobia of spiders or heights or being confined in small spaces. We wouldn't cover someone in spiders to cure them of their phobia or push someone off a cliff. Any steps to "cure" someone of a phobia has to be done gradually and broken down into very small steps. The "right" school can make a difference, but they aren't always easy to find. Home schooling is a very real option for some children. My daughter always wanted to go to school and be "normal" and I am a single working mum so home schooling wouldn't work for us. What has worked for us in the past is to work with the school to ensure that as much pressure as possible is removed, ie homework - assemblies - anything that my daughter found too stressful. Then we began by coming in just before lunch for a few hours and gradually built this up over weeks until she was able to attend full time. Some children can only cope with an hour and others don't actually go to normal class but rather sit in the library or with a tutor. Some schools are very accommodating and others are terrible. I hope you are able to find the help you need for yourself and your daughter.
Reading your last post was just like describing things i went through with my daughter when the school refusal started at 14.
She would go to the bathroom when it was time to leave, and many hours later still be in there. I would be in the hall/kitchen pleading/begging/bribing etc, to no avail.
Eventually i had to stop, because it was affecting our home and the stress was too much to take.
You're doing/thinkiong right. Forcing her to go to school is not going to help her self-esteem/anxiety.
Her mental health is vitally important. She's telling the truth when she says she doesn't know why she can't go, i believe they genuinely don't.
Go through the Gp. CAMHS, etc, talk to the school. Her education will sort itself out, she is the number one priority for now.
Post anytime. I really wish I could say/do something that would help. The feelings of frustration are so hard to deal with.
My daughter is in college now, but I will never forget the misery and anziety she went through, and for what reason, we'll never know.
Such great advice has already been given to you by the others and i totally agree with it all, small steps has been the way forward with my daughter who is now also 14. My dd school problems started in 2012 i changed my daughters school at the beginning of year 9 due to her being isolated by friends, me taking her to school for her to be turning back round and going to her grandads, after 6 months of this i decided the best thing was for her to change school, im not sure if it was the right thing to do or not to this day, sometimes i wish id not given in so easily to others advice about take her out put her in a different school, she certainly doesnt thank me as things got worse as she refused to go at all after 3 weeks in her new school, and so my journey of school refusal began, although i think that what has happened would more than likely still happened at her old school and i dont think they would have given me as much help as this school has.
My daughter self harmed threatened to kill herself barracaded her self in her room but no amount of screaming begging pleading would make her go, it is only now that since september she has been attending nearly everyday for a few hours a day and does 1 full day a week now and i feel that is cos i listened to her like you are doing and dragging her by the hair too school is not the answer, my dad was exactly the same said i was too soft but soon realised that things wernt going to be as easy as he thought and im sure your dad will be the same eventually.