school refusers

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School Refusal
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So much conflicting information online, need help

Hi, I have an 11 year old who is suffering from school anxiety. He cries and is depressed before school. He has stopped eating breakfast and lunch at school. He has meltdowns at school which I have to go and pick him up from. I am sure you all have been through this.
I have been reading online many articles stating that if you take the child out of school that it makes their anxiety worse, but my gut is telling me that I should take him out and put him in online school. I would not stay in a job where I felt this miserable, why would I do that to my son?
My son's psychiatrist is saying the same thing though. I just don't want to make a bad decision and my son ends up paying for it. Also, are any of your kids "highly sensitive children". If you don't know this term you can look up the term and take a test here: . My son is a highly sensitive child and I was wondering if school anxiety is part of their sensitivities.
If anyone has had experience with taking their kids out of school please let me know if it worked out or if it made your kid even more withdrawn (which everyone keeps telling me he will turn into one of those people that cannot leave the house). I just feel that if I took him out for the rest of the school year we could have a chance to build his self esteem and get him the help he needs.
Thanks for taking time to read my post!

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

Hi Jen

Sorry to hear all you are going through at the moment. It all sounds so familiar - lots of similar symptoms and reactions.

It is a tough one regarding whether you keep them going to school or remove them.
From my own experience I also had everyone telling me to keep my son at school - and I have managed to do so - he misses a lot of days - which makes it hard - but he does keep managing to get through and has now just finished Year 8.

I think you need to go with your gut feeling, on the one hand, and also weigh up the situation and how he may or may not benefit - at his age - going on-line now. It is possible there might be more alternatives and support you can get from the school first before making this decision. Can you teach him at home? Does he have friends he could still interact with face to face - or relatives a similar age? Can you home school?

There are a number of parents on here who have taken their child out of school (usually older than your son) and either home schooled or educated on-line or managed to get a program of tutors (sometimes with support from the school) and have had some good success. But there are also others who have managed to keep their child going to school on and off and also moved forward.

Is there someone who can help you get your son to school - family member- friend etc?
My ex husband took my son to school two days a week last year and it helped keep the momentum going so at least he attended3-4 days a week mostly. But it does stress him and if I didn't have everyone on my back about getting him there - and I didn't worry about his lack of motivation for doing school work at home - then I'd take him out now.

As for being sensitive children - I have read something of this and my son also does have a sensitivity to noise, crowds, bright lights, sudden changes, changed routines and unexpected expectations! That is school in a nutshell really, isn't it. SO no wonder they have problems. We are never in that kind of noisy unpredictable environment again.

I am sure others will respond to your post and give you some help too. Remember- you are not alone - and we all know what you are going through. You are doing the best you can and your son can't help the way he feels.

Sorry if I have rambled on here - its very hot down under tonight - was 35 degrees today and I am still sweltering. I wish I could send a bit of this warmth up your way.
Take care and hope to be of some help again

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

Thank you for your response Linda. Yesterday was actually a good day. He came home in a good mood because his teacher let him go outside and help set up a lab experiment. So, now I don't know if I should take him out. Everyday I never know if I will be getting a call or not to go pick him up. His school has been very supportive and make accommodations for him when he is having a panic attack. So, I am very pleased with the schools help.
It just tears me up each morning when I see the pain in his eyes that he has to go to school. He is an outcast and nobody talks to him on the playground or at lunch. I feel so bad that he feels so alone. He also tells me he is very bored in class because he picks up the instruction so quickly and he feels like the others don't want to be there. He gets really mad when other students interrupt the teacher or play around. It causes him to get very frustrated with the students, so I can see why they don't want to make friends with him. His intelligence and his maturity keep him from connecting with students his age, he just doesn't identify with them. The only kids he hangs out with are kids in the neighborhood that are 3 years older than him or more. It's like he is a teenager stuck in an 11yr old body. He asks if he could just stay home and do his work so he doesn't have to be bored. His therapist keeps telling me that he just needs to find his place and I do think she is right. I guess I am the one who needs to suck it up and let life teach him the lessons that he needs to learn. Geez, it's so hard being a parent!
As for getting to school, that isn't really the problem. It's keeping him in class that is the problem. He tends to spend a lot of hours in the nurses office. Surprisingly, he manages to keep an A average without being in class.
I live in Las Vegas,NV so I know a little about heat :) I feel for you...Keep cool and thanks again for the insight.

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

Hi Jen

I assumed you were from the UK as everyone else on here (apart from just a few) are from the UK. I know more about the UK system than my own as I have been on here for a long time.

It must be so hard for you to know your son is not connecting with anyone at the school and very much a loner. The really positive thing is his intelligence and his marks. Perhaps he does just have to find his place - but it must be agonising for you witnessing this.
Is there any local group of any kind he could join to meet others of similar interest? Would he join such a group?
Does he have social skill problems or do you think it is just his immediate peers?

Whilst my son wasn't a loner - he found kids his own age annoying! He preferred the company of older kids and adults. Now that he is 14 he has some on-line friends who are similar age and a bit older and he gets along reeally well with them (I think they are all a bit similar and not socialising well with their peers). He does have a couple of friends at secondary school but they are not that close. His closer friends at Primary school all went to different secondary schools unfortunately. But....he still had all the school refusal issues - even with friends. he matured - the idea of not having friends freaked him and his first year at high school was a bit of a mixed bag as I, like you, would feel so sad inside when he told me he had no one to hang out with so went to the library with his iPad. Then he went on medication - and he seemed to find it easier to mix and do things - so then started playing basket ball with classmates every lunch time - and this lifted his spirits a lot.
Now its holidays though - he has absolutely no intention of catching up with anyone from school. I think it also reminds him too much of 'school' and what he hates - so he will avoid them.

Has your son had any diagnosis that points to anywhere on the autism spectrum? A few people posting on here have found their son/daughter are on this spectrum or have aspergers - and this accounts for much of their difficulty socialising and yet also having high intelligence.

Does the school have any lunch time groups he could join - chess if often a lunch time group that kids who don't fit the norm drift into for example. Could you talk to the school even about setting up such a group - as there may be other kids in a similar situation? He may find at high school there is more chance to do some lunch time activities that the school provides as I find high schools do have a lot more things going on to engage kids at lunch times than primary schools.

Perhaps talk more with the school and see if you can keep him going at least through Primary school? At least at the moment he can go to the school nurse. Is he able to go back to class sometimes after going there? Can they perhaps provide him with a place to go at lunch time or whenever he has a panic attack? Is he mature enough to take on board anything like cognitive behaviour therapy, do you think, where he might be able to talk his negative thoughts out in his head and thus try and ward off a panic attack?

Don't feel you have to suck it up and let life teach him lessons as such - the school environment is not something they come across again in life - so it is a challenge for any child that does not fit the 'norm'. Yes we do need our kids to face up to the things they avoid - so that they know they can do them - but I now believe we can pick and choose how many of those we have to let them work through per day or per week etc. My son does have good avoidance behaviour for many things - but these days I have to weigh up which ones are the most important to battle on with and which ones I can let slide.
It is tough being a parent, isn't it.....especially when our kids throw up these extra challenges for us!
Hang in there - talk to the school - read the posts on here - and don't ever feel alone.
Take care and hear from you soon

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

Hi Jen,

Is your son at secondary school or just finishing yr 6? With the "lab experiment" you described I expect he's at secondary. The transition period between primary and secondary schools is a time when many children change friendship groups and feel unsettled. In year 6 many children find their friendship groups either break up or they just don't feel right any more and in year 7 it can take a while to find people they get on with. Children who are sensitive and want to get on with their work won't make/stay friends with children who are noisy, lively and like to mess about (which is quite a proportion, but not all, of the 11 year old boys he'll be with). Usually the sensitive ones do find a few others like themselves but it can take a while.

I have 3 sons. All have wanted to get on with their lessons and don't understand those who mess about. The oldest had lot of health problems and school attendance was under 45% for yrs 6, 7 and 8 and not brilliant in 9 and 10. It took a while to get a good friendship group but it happened. He's now 20 and at uni where some of the same social issues recur. The middle boy scores very highly as a sensitive child. He managed to stay in school although he was very unhappy around 11 - 12 years and stopped even trying to relate to other children but came through this and now has a very small group of close friends. He's just moved to 6th form college. The youngest boy has hardly been in school since Yr 5 and is now in year 10 and home educated. His only friends are online and neither of us feel this is enough.

Personally, I have tried to keep all 3 of my sons in school and am not really happy with the situation of the one who is home educated. He had online schooling last year but I don't think it was a very good fit for him although there were other children at the school who appeared to have a more positive experience. We found his secondary school difficult from the start (ironically we chose it because the oldest boy had great support there when he was ill, but changes in management greatly changed the school). Eventually we felt we were in a position where we just had to withdraw him. If the school had been more supportive, I think we would have carried on.

Sadly, schools are under such pressure to have good attendance results that it is hard for them to support individual pupils who are having problems. If you have a supportive school I'd be tempted to keep on trying to get him in there. BUT, if there are issues of bullying or mental health problems which could lead to self harm or severe depression then I'd say pull him out. It's difficult isn't it? So many opinions and offers of advice are available online, but in the end it depends on your child and how they are coping. Whatever anybody says it is such an individual decision.

Best wishes to you and your son.

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

Hi Jen

I agree with everything Leah has described so well. And in the end it does have to be your decision.
There is no quick fix - so trying to get him to stay at school or deciding to home school are just two options in your son's overall education. He may just find he doesn't go in a straight line like other kids - this makes it hard for you- but it seems they get there in the end. Friendship groups, as Leah has mentioned, are important for the development of our children as well as their sense of well being. But it can take time.

I somehow don't think we would have been issue free, had I decided to take my son out of school - but that is just my personal experience. There is a lot to weigh up - but also go with your gut feeling.
Let us know how you are going and any more questions you may have -
take care

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

Thank you for your post. It's very insightful. I have made the decision to keep him in school.
After spending the weekend reading everything I could on school refusal and low self esteem I decided to try to do a little cognitive therapy this weekend with my son. My son and I have a good relationship and can talk about his problems so I thought I would try to expose him to bullying in our home setting. I sat him down and first talked to him about who his "true" self is. He listed positive things about himself and I added a few. Then I next told him I was going to call him names the way his classmates did and I wanted him to tell me how he felt when he heard these words. He told me he was hurt when they spoke them, then I told him that those were all lies. I explained that kids are mean and just try to find something to make him feel bad so they can feel good about themselves. Then we practiced the situations that he has been in. I called him the names that he has experienced at school and then I told him to practice how he would handle the situations. He came up with a few solutions on how he would try to view the situation. Like he would picture the bullies as stupid kids who are just trying to get a reaction out of him or he would just take it as a joke and move on.
We practiced 3 times throughout the weekend with me randomly calling him names, then us discussing the situations. I am proud to say that today (Monday) it worked! He came home today and said that he had a couple of kids tell him some mean things (which would usually send him into a crying fit) and he was able to handle them.
I cannot tell you how happy I was!!! I was praying I was doing the right thing all this weekend. I would never think of calling my son names and was out of my comfort zone during the weekend, but I am so glad I tried it. It has helped him to role play and to desensitize him from the men kids and has helped him to build his outer shell. I even made a poster with all the words that he truly is; like kind, smart, loving..ect. We have been going over them to make him understand that these are the only words that truly matter and that define him. Hopefully someone can try this with their kids and maybe this can help them.

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help


What a brave choice of action!

Congratulations on being able to take this through and gain such a positive outcome.

It is really encouraging for all of us.


Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

That's great news Jen. Coping with difficult people is hard for all of us including adults so being able to practise what to do in a safe setting has obviously helped. I'm glad he's felt happier and you and he must be very proud of how he coped using this strategy at school.

My oldest son has a severe nut allergy and when he was a little younger than your son he had some problems with other children pretending they had nuts on them or saying daft things to him about his allergy and/or his asthma. He used to feel upset and/or angry. Although we didn't role play, we looked at all the options from reporting them to the teacher, acting bored, dealing with it with humour, telling them to shut up and shouting at them. In the end he decided boredom or humour were the best responses, depending on what exactly was said and who was saying it and it has worked for him. This was particularly helpful when he went on to develop even more allergy problems which often made him look quite different too.

However, for parents who don't think their children can do this,I'd still give it a go but accept if necessary that you may be right. My other sons have remained more sensitive to the negative comments of others and cannot yet shrug them off easily. So don't beat yourself up if this approach does not suit your child at this stage.

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

You are right, this method isn't for everyone. I told my son to stand up for himself by pushing back if he is pushed or telling them off. He said that he can't do that because it makes him feel like he is a bully. He is far too sensitive to take a stand for himself. He told me the best solution is when he comes home he can just talk about it without us giving advice. He said the best thing is just to talk and then have a good hug afterward.
Next month we are going to put him into boxing or a self defense class. I think this will boost his self esteem. I am not expecting him to go around fighting but I want to get into his mind that he shouldn't be afraid because he will know how to defend himself. Hopefully just the knowledge will be all he needs to not let the mean kids bring him down.

Bless you guys, I have read a lot of your stories on here and I know mine is nothing compared to what you guys are going through. Believe in your children because it's not their fault,anxiety is a huge monster!

Re: So much conflicting information online, need help

Nice parenting work. My first child had bullying problems for a while but I was able to teach him to deal with it by roll playing standing up for himself. It involved using his backpack for defense. Backpacks are heavy when they are full of books! The bully tried pulling him off his bicycle and got clobbered by a heavy backpack full of books. He never bothered my boy again.

My school refuser was never bullied by other children but by one of his teachers.