school refusers

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School Refusal
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What to do?


Has anyone else had the SR child leave the school grounds and go home?
I've had this happen 3 times now (twice in the past two weeks) and am concerned a pattern will form.
I feel SR does have forward steps but can also evolve into another habit that is just another avoidance behaviour.
What would anyone recommend? I want to clip this in the bud as best I can before it becomes yet another opt out option.

My son said he went to the form class and felt so depressed that he couldn't stay at school. I knew he had left as I can check the attendance via the internet. I emailed his form/pastoral care teacher and she has now written a referral for him to see one of the welfare coordinators and we are also going to try and encourage him to go to 'chill out/time out' in the welfare centre instead of walking home.

I find myself feeling so stressed again! Just when I think things are going to go ok - of course they are not and we have a different problem to face. And yet at the school end things are settling - he has friends in the elective classes - is getting to know some kids in his own class - is doing the work in class - plays basketball at lunch times. But...his mood is such that he just can't face the day. No more morning meltdowns - they disappeared when the medication kicked in. A friend has told me that her son didn't start to improve until half way through year 9 - it was his maturity that then allowed him to feel more able to build up strategies to cope. But he had always done his school work whereas my son hasn't.

I feel guilt eating away at my stomach because I haven't told his father about this. The reason being that every time I tell him something - he over reacts and seems to indicate that somehow I contribute to the situation. Yet if I don't tell him - he is liable to find out anyway. So I feel not only am I dealing with my son's depression/school refusal - but my ex's way of blame and expectation. My ex just tells me he is trying to take the pressure off me by assisting - but sometimes it feels like more pressure!! Anyone else have this dilemma?

It is so hard, isn't it - trying to reason with someone with SR when they just cannot seem to see the bigger picture. They close down the blinds to their mind and see the negatives and won't let the help in. My son said to me today that every night he thinks ' what's the point'. Then I feel jittery and try not to make too big an issue of him coming home from school as I don't want him to slide further under with his depression. His father seems to think its a behaviour issue but I don't. Yet there is a fine line sometimes. Today I was very cross and expressed my anger.
I then gave my son a hug - I know he couldn't help it - but I've been through 8 years of this and I am pretty tired.
I keep reminding myself that he is still hanging in there - still mostly going to school - and I think if I didn't ahve my ex on my back all the time - that would all be ok. But I can feel the expectations on me - and on my son - and I don't think it is doing us any good - but trying to tell my ex this is again like talking to someone who cannot see the big picture. So dealing with two who seem to only see what is before them and not the long term survival.

Sorry - just having a whinge. Hasn't been a good day. Hope you have all had a better day. Its the nature of SR I know - and I'm usually the one offering support - but we all get weighed down, don't we.
Take care everyone - and we must do something just for us today ....

Re: What to do?

Oh Linda, I'm sorry that you and your son are having a bad time. You are right to focus on the fact that mostly he is at school and although these blips are worrying, he's not walking out every day. I know you're concerned he might move towards this but the offer of a "chill out time" in the welfare centre may well help him.

In the past I have worked in a school with younger children (7 - 11) and at any one time we usually had a few children who would threaten to walk out or actually try to do so. Often the offer of a place/person to go to in times of feeling distressed was enough to keep them on the premises most, if not all, of the time.

All of us with SR children feel we are being judged as parents. So many people are sure they would not put up with this problem if it was their child and see us as being soft/weak/unable to set boundaries. It's worse of course, when it is the other parent who feels this. And when you are no longer together it must bring up all the old issues.

I cannot advise you on how to deal with your ex. There are people in my circle who think I'm doing it all wrong but as they don't have any parental responsibility I have the luxury of being able to ignore them. But I can say that whenever either I or my late husband tried to do the "tough parent" roles with our son it just made everything worse. He really needed to know we were on his side at times when he felt no-one else had a clue what he was going through. Pushing and pushing him when he felt he could not cope lead to behavioural problems and a deteriorating relationship with us.When we stopped it didn't make the school situation any better but it made home life relatively normal again (i.e. what passes for normal in our household).

Please take care of yourself. You are doing the best you can in the circumstances you are in and no-one on this forum can doubt your commitment to your son.

Re: What to do?

Thanks Leah - I appreciate your support very much.'

I know we all have these rocky parts. This morning my son refused to get out of the car. Turns out they were dissecting rats in science. I felt so annoyed he hadn't told me beforehand so I could understand. He got so stressed he scratched his legs badly. We are home at the moment - planning on going in for next lesson.
Feeling worn out but also could do without the guilt that I think is weighing me down. I'd take this as just a hiccup if I didn't have niggling at the back of my mind that I haven't told his father and the schools is liable to contact both of us to come in for a meeting if this continues (as his form teacher has now sent a referral to the welfare coordinator).

My son also says he refuses to see the welfare coordinator or go anywhere to 'chill out' as he says that is even more embarrassing and will single him out. Can't there is no winner. I have talked through with him the negative thoughts and geting him to replace each one with a positive (we did that this morning). I have also talked about distraction and he is doing that now on his iPad. I tried to get him to deep breathe but he was so stressed he couldn't do it!
Hopefully this is just a blip we are going through.
Take care everyone.

Re: What to do?

Hi Linda - I can so relate to all you have said. I also avoid telling my ex everything that is going on as although he tries, he finds it very difficult to understand what our daughter goes through and even more difficult is the fact that a lot of her anxiety/depression and resultant school refusal has come about because of him walking out when she was a baby and their rocky relationship. It is a constant juggling act to try to keep everyone happy isn't it. All we can do is what we feel is right for our children and sometimes that is a difficult judgement call because someone is not going to be happy :-( When I feel it is appropriate, I also give some of the responsibility to my daughter to update her dad on what she has been doing. Don't be hard on yourself when you get it wrong.... we all have our limits. A child with mental illness is I believe more difficult than a physical illness in a lot of ways as it is "invisible" to most people. I am trying to live one day at a time - easy to say I know but every time I look further ahead the stress just overwhelms me. Just bringing everything back to the moment has helped me stay calm (that and a small dose of Zoloft lol) My daughter has never actually left the school grounds, probably only because we live so far away from the school but she has walked out of class and phoned me from the toilets in a state. She was also given a "leave" pass so she can go to the library or office if she isn't coping during class. She has only used it a couple of times, but I think just knowing she has it has helped. The principal didn't ask her if she wanted it, just gave it to her and said it would be there if she needed it. I also know what you mean about them falling into patterns of behaviour. I think because it is somewhat comforting to them in a weird sort of way. DD goes to school ok on Mondays now and has TAFE Monday night until 6pm. Now she has a mindset that Tuesdays are too hard as she is exhausted. I actually took her back to our gp last week and he is sending her off for some tests relating to sleep disorders as she has always needed way more sleep than the average teenager and even though her anxiety is under control atm, she is still finding it impossible to wake herself much before lunch time, even though she is asleep by 10pm. I often feel like I am grasping at straws trying to find answers and reasons for it all helps me stay sane though. :-) Your son has taken some tremendous steps forward and you will both get through this. It does get easier as they mature - we are finding things much better communication wise as DD comes to understand herself better and the desire to change becomes stronger. She told me last night she doesn't think she will do year 12 as she would prefer to continue her animal studies at TAFE so this could be our last year :-) She has just got her "L's" and is so excited about driving, thankfully she is pretty good too or I don't think my stress levels would cope. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers xx

Re: What to do?

Thanks Sandy. And hearing how your daughter has progressed always gives me hope.

It is hard for me to keep things from my ex as he does want to be involved every day which could be fine but as he so often seems to blame me then it is like he just doesn't trust I know what I am doing or that Iam doing all I can. He has been taking my son to school three days a week and yes my son does go on those days but it was on one of those days that he also walked out and came home.
My ex just sent me an email asking if all was ok. I have had to ignore the email. I just feel I cannot explain that he didn't go at all. He seems to think I have to get him there no matter what and that I need to ring everyone who can take him and so forth. But my son and I don't have that kind of relationship anyway. I can't just turn my back on him and ring up someone else to take him. I believe I am the only one who can weigh up the situation on the spot.
And the psychiatrist told me to go with my 'gut' feeling. She also told me that my ex might never accept that this is a 'disorder' and not just something that force will get rid of.

ANyway - I made a choice not to mention this last episode - so if it all comes out - which it will - then I'll just have to face up to it and be straight about why. I could just do without the added stress.
Oh well - another day tomorrow - hopefully a better one.
Thanks for listening.

Re: What to do?

Hi Linda and everyone

Am so sorry to hear all of your struggles, am totally aware how frustrating it becomes especially as men do seem to think its all a case of just suck it up and get on with it. So it is a question I ask daily, what to do?

We have now been appointed a tutor for my middle son which she is totally great but I think she must have his motivation in a bag coz as soon as she leaves he just goes straight back upstairs an stays in his room, we are very concerned how dependent he is on then internet for contact with other people, he has only 1 or 2 that he talks to but we are increasingly worried how much time he would spend chatting if we didn't switch it off at the mains.
He rarely will come out with us as a family, and now my younger son has got quite a few difficulties recently in primary school and we are not sure if its because he is picking up on the stress at home as their dad is increasingly less patient and I am also worrying how its all going to end, am afraid their dad is always talking about them not getting jobs and how the middle lad has dropped out coz he's too lazy etc, really makes me upset to hear as I really don't think its totally he can't be bothered.

We have now been given an appointment with camhs at last, after 8 months of waiting, I also have been hauled into see my younger sons head mistress and same inclusion officer so they are aware there is a problem but again I can't tell them how its affecting everyone only me and I feel a nervous wreck all the time! Am I just too feeble to force them to get sorted?

Never had any problems with my older children, can't understand what I have done wrong this time, I seem to be the weak link so am guessing I must need to change my tactics but don't know how without causing more upset.

Sorry for the epic - so many of you have similar problems so I know we are not alone - am so pleased to hear of the good results for some of you and can only hope one day we too will be through this phase, just wish it would all go away right now! Its been along 20 months and seems to be getting more complicated not easier!

My best wishes to you all and hope that you all find an answer/help for your situations. Stay strong

Re: What to do?

Hi Gerry,

My SR son has spent the last three and a half years with only internet friends who he's in touch with through gaming sites. Although some people have been critical of this, it's actually been what's kept him sane as he was never in secondary school long enough to keep any friends. I used to worry at first but then I realised that he needed this social contact outside the family and as he wasn't in school and wasn't going out of the house much this was his best option. Until this year his computer has been in the room the rest of the family use so we knew what he was doing and who he was talking to.

He is the youngest child so I don't have the problem of him influencing a sibling as the others are 3 and 6 years older than him and had already established themselves at school and college. But I still had the pressures of people looking at me and thinking I was weak or too sympathetic to his problems. If you read the posts on this site and look at the histories you'll find that most parents find pushing too strongly makes matters worse. I know that my son, like other SR children, didn't want to feel like he did but felt powerless to change. Putting too much pressure on him didn't get him into school, it just made home life miserable too.

In our family, allowing my son to come out of the school system for a bit allowed life to calm down and at 14 he is now re-integrating (we hope - early days yet) into a different, more supportive school. I accept that this might not work for other SR children and may not be possible for some families. And I must admit that educationally he has missed out. But I think education doesn't just fit into the school years and finding a way of reducing the stress is important and one way of doing this is to let our SR children know that we are on their side. Please don't waste time blaming yourself or worry about others blaming you or your child. Try to keep working together to make life more bearable for all of you.

Re: What to do?

Hi Leah
Thanks for your reply, it is good to know that your son has managed to keep friendships going, I worry that although my son chats to a couple of people he hasn't had the experience of them in real life.

I guess its a different world now with so many forms of communication, sadly my son hasn't kept any former friends from school, his best friend fell out with him after he stopped going to school and he hasn't had any further contact from him, he made up some pretty grim lies about my son and it left him devastated, he said my son had been bullying him and when I went to speak to the lads mum she said he had just made it all up! Leaving my son absolutely shell shocked. He never had much confidence but he became really introverted and now spends most of his time in his room. Anyway thanks again Leah, am divided with his dad over the reasons why he's suffering with SR his dad firmly believes its just because he's too lazy to go school, so not very much empathy shown!

Stay strong and I hope you can get some help and that you do have success with the new school - do you live in the uk? (fingers crossed for you both)
Best regards

Re: What to do?

Hi Gerry,

I think I might not have explained things very clearly. My son didn't keep ANY of his school friends. His internet friends are young people he has ONLY met through gaming sites and they are not even in this country (we live in the south of England) but in mainland Europe. But he has managed to sustain longterm contact with a couple of them and they buy each other Christmas and birthday presents which are cheap games from online sites. Although some people have viewed these friendships are not "real" friendships, I would disagree as they have sustained my son at a time when he would otherwise have been left feeling totally wretched and isolated.

I am lucky in that my late husband and I were in agreement about how we tried to help our son. It is a difficult issue as many of us have been brought up to believe that with a firm hand children will get on with what they are expected to do. The trouble is, SR children are not choosing to feel as they do and often find themselves overwhelmed. So a tough approach can end up being counter-productive making them more anxious and/or resentful and even less able to cope with going in. I can appreciate the urge to say "just go in and learn to cope with it" and I've said it myself in the past but at that time my son just could not do it. I suppose it's like telling people with severe depression to just pull themselves together.

Since my husband's death, not that long ago, I feel a little vulnerable as the sole parent and it has re-awakened some of the anxiety that others will just assume I'm a useless mum. But there are lots of parents coping on their own so I just try to get on with it and keep reminding myself that as crimes against society go, failing to get into school every day doesn't rate very highly on the scale!

We all have to accept that we are doing the best we can in difficult circumstances.

Re: What to do?

Hi Leah

Your son's internet friends are certainly 'friends'. I came also to see internet friends differently after my son made some on-line and they all actually seemed to be similar kind of kids. My son does have a couple of friends at school but he never wants to ever bring them home or go to their place - so it limits the depth of friendship and so he finds he often doesn't care so much about them.

My son has, however, stopped playing on-line games and so his on-line friends have disappeared too. I was worried when I thought he was addicted to on-line games - now that he is not on there - I worry he has shut out potential friends! I guess we are always just clutching at straws to ensure our children have some kind of a social life.

You have done so well to cope with the loss of your husband and now being a single mum. I am sure there are days when you feel you just aren't coping - but you also have the strength to try and move on - and that must be really helpful to your son. You will all be going through your own grieving and it does take much longer than anyone quite realises - and you have probably found that. People get on with their lives and assume all is well for you too.
You are doing a wonderful job - and hopefully your son will keep his on-line friends and continue to make those small steps forward.
My son didn't get to school yesterday or today. Is he ill? Not sure - yesterday seemed like anxiety - today...couldn't face it. It is always unpredictable and I always worry! But there is always tomorrow and it helps me to remember those like yourself on here who are managing to soldier on despite the circumstances.
Take care (and to you too Gerry) and one step at a time...
Linda xxx