a resource for parents
Hope you are all going ok? Haven't heard news updates from some of you for some time - my fingers are crossed hoping that means that things have moved on ahead or support has been found etc.
For us here our 1st term ends at the end of this week. The school is having a 'wellbeing' day today with lots of activities all day, a fete at lunchtime with a band...and...kids can come dressed in a onesey and get prizes for the most creative!! I doubt many will go dressed up. Mmm...I wonder how many other SR kids would attend?
My son has stubbornly refused to go and it doesn't surprise me. Sounds like a lovely day if you are feeling good about yourself already. Oh well.
Then tomorrow is no pupils as it is parent teacher night and Friday is cross-country. So...our term ended yesterday.
Feeling relaxed already : ) Last week my son made a full week of school (the first for the term) so we have ended on a positive note.
Take care everyone and I'll keep popping by over our holiday break.
Hi Linda - that's great news. Enjoy your term break. Life is a lot different for us now....DD thought this year would be different due to having a choice of subjects for Year 11 and it did look good for the first week :-( then all the usual behaviour came back. I was about ready to pull her out of school and had no idea what we were going to do as she refused to try anything "online" but when I went for what I thought would be my final meeting at the school her principal suggested she try Pathways which is basically a way for kids to do their HSC over 3 years instead of 2 by breaking up subjects over the 3 years. What is has meant for us is that she is now only doing her TAFE course of Animal Studies on a Monday afternoon and her elective of Drama on a Wednesday afternoon which is the only time she actually has to go to school. She is a changed girl!! Has joined a gym and goes there Monday and Wednesday mornings before TAFE and school and is working part time on the farm on weekends. Our plan is for her to finish this year as she will have her TAFE certificate II and then next year she will probably leave school and do TAFE + work. So I think we are on the right path and life is so much better. A few of us Aussies have started a facebook page called School Phobia / School Refusal Australia and are trying to help one another which has been good. So many differences between the states and very different to the UK system. Funny but DD always loved dress up days - was the one thing I could get her to school for but she is into drama, creative stuff.
Hi Linda and Sandy
It's so good to read about the positive news you have both shared. Time is such a huge factor with SR and understanding and patience of course - we learn to develop it with our kids but unfortunately the outside systems are taking time to catch up! We have to hope that in the future it will not be so difficult for SR kids and their parents as it has been for us.
My daughter was 15 at Christmas, she is attending school full time now but still hates it and has only made one friend and a few aquaintances who she says she would not choose to know outside of school. It's hard to see her tired and unhappy but the reality is she has one year left at the school and if she gets good enough grades in her GCSE exams she will be able to transfer to the 6th form college induction weeks in July 2015. The more relaxed college environment will suit her much better I think as will the maturity of the students there.
For me it is all about acceptance right now, I can do nothing else to change her situation for her only encourage her to look at the positives in her life and take part in social events and see family friends when possible. She is a long way from where she was but the journey isn't over yet.
Enjoy the Easter holidays everyone, ours start a week Friday, can't wait almost 3 weeks of no school to worry about! :)
It's great to get some good news on here. I think many SR children would have a better chance of coping if the school system had more flexibility in it. Being able to extend course time and have what is in effect part time attendance sounds a great idea!
Linda, the wellbeing day sounds horrendous. I remember that when I was at school I much preferred days with a more "normal" structure as otherwise it can be hard to work out where you fit in particularly if, like me, you are not the most sociable or extrovert type. Also some children go a bit over the top when boundaries are relaxed and it can be stressful dealing with their behaviour too.
Lovely that the Easter hols are about to start with a bit of relaxation possible while the pressure of school attendance is off. A relief for parents and children alike.
Linda it's great that your son finished school term on a full week.
Well done to him
Hope everyone is looking forward to the Easter break.
Thanks for your comments, Sandy, Clarity, Leah and Virginia - and your updates.
There's no plain sailing with this- is there! Your stories show great determination though - and I think that is the key for getting through.
Sandy - I don't think we have pathways down here in Victoria - I have looked and found nothing. There is no consistency in support across Australia at all. I have found it quite difficult to know what Australia offers in the way of support overall - I know now more about the UK system. Whilst it obviously isn't a successful system - it is actually a system. Here it seems pot luck if you are noticed as having any problems or not...sink or swim kind of attitude.
Too much emphasis at least here is on trying to lift ' standards'. Always changing curriculums and somehow the kids like ours get lost in the system - and yet another system that says it will pop out more rounded, stable, confident and knowledgeable young people at the other end. But it doesn't work that way if the school itself is an environment that is unforgiving if you don't fit the norm. The way schools are run has to change long before any curriculum is overhauled.
The Well Being day made it into the paper - showing lots of happy smiling teenagers and one girl had cut her long hair for charity as part of an activity. Would have been fun if you were 'out there'...but too unpredictable for my son.
Although the holidays are in full swing - my son has been anxious on and off - thinking ahead to return to school. They have made the first day back a day where they have to set up a display of a 'personal project' they have been working on. My son chose to document in photographs the street art in Melbourne. But...he says there is no way he is going to school that day as he is just too stressed about others seeing his work and setting up and looking at others work. The first day back after holidays is always a challenge so I feel annoyed that they made it the first day back. I am hoping to send my son but he can tell them he hasn't finished his project yet...but even having to say that will make him highly nervous. He says if I make him go he will just walk out of the school : (
Project idea was good - but the presentation bit is just too much for some kids. Sounds good ...much more interesting than normal - but sometimes the more creative way of doing things is not something our kids can handle. So now he also doesn't want to actually finish his project and is avoiding doing the last photographic shoot we were going to do this week.
BUT...it is so nice to have holidays...and although my son is just lazing around - we both don't have the pressure of the trying to get up and go to school scenario.
Have some stress free time everyone : )
Hi Linda. Some good positive news there - well done to all. Also wondered if you'd dealt with the situation we now find ourselves in ...
My daughter had invited a few friends over this holiday for a bit of shopping and a sleepover (I did say just have them over for a bit, but she insisted). Anyway, she was so upset last night and insisted we contact them to cancel it, as she was too worried about them coming. She said she might feel left out and just felt too worried. Again, I calmly pointed out all the positives about them coming over and I know she really would of been fine, but we are again having to let these girls down (not that I've said this to my daughter). This was meant to be a way of ensuring she kept in touch with her friends, but I am beginning to realise that these friends will have to be very understanding. I think it is very frustrating for us as parents, especially as this would have given her more confidence with these friends which may of meant she was less worried when she was thinking about school.
Anyway, today is a new day and I think we will focus on having a good day at home.
Hope things continue to improve for all on this forum.
It is reallly hard for our kids to keep friends and yes - their friends do have to be understanding - and some luckily are. My son had good friends at primary school who did eventually learn about his anxiety through their mothers - not directly through him and as a result seemed to be very accepting. They were great boys but unfortunately two went to different schools and the third one my son just let slip away because he couldn't keep up the social side. He was heading directly into his social anxiety at the time and every time this boy rang up and asked him over - my son would panic and beg me to come up with an excuse. He never invited his friends over to stay but did manage a couple of sleep overs with them and visited their homes several times and in the early classes of primary school he did invite them to our place too.
He then had to make new friends at secondary school and to his credit, he has. At first they gave him such a hard time for being absent - he told me that they just thought he had the slackest mum in the world who didn't make him go to school!!!
That made it worse as they just didn't understand what on earth was going on. So although they were supposed to be friends - they were teasing him about all kinds of things - their way of dealing with something they just didn't get.
But over time they have just come to accept that that is the way he is and that he might or might not be there. It means that he never visits their homes or them ours - but he hangs out with them at school. Unfortunately the school separated him from them this year for no reason...just a number on a page that needed to fill up a class. But he still hangs out with them at lunch times and recess and has had to make new friends in his class - very slow but beginning to.
I think friends are very important at all times but especially with kids that have school refusal or any kind of anxiety. TO have someone to be there for them is so vital but sadly gets lost if they stay away from school so much that the connections are lost. With your daughter- having friends over to stay is a huge thing - so good on her for hoping to be able to face it - even if in the end she couldn't. At least she thought she could - and that is a positive thing.
I'd encourage her to take them in smaller doses and where they meet for shorter periods of time or at a place where she doesn't feel she has to keep them entertained or feel she might be left out. Going to the movies or shops is probably a better option as there is a 'third party' or so to speak - the event - that makes it much easier if you suffer from social anxiety or anxiety generally. So as you say - another day - but tell your daughter she did a great thing by hoping her friends could come over and not to feel she has let them or herself down. She hasn't - they are probably just a bit confused by it all but if she can find another way to stay in touch or by texting or whatever she can do to just keep up the momentum and next time try something smaller - she is doing well.
Its a slow road...hang in there : )
PS Carrie hasn't posted on here for a long time but it was good to be reminded of her success story - I do hope it stayed that way and her daughter just continued to move forward. From what I understand from others on here - changing schools can sometimes work but often the problem just travels with them to the new school - so they need help no matter what.
My son is still refusing to go on the first day back - not sure what I should do - try and get him there - but how - so I think I'll just have to let that slide. I know it would do him good to be there for his project presentation - but if he just can't do it and I don't want to get into the 'force' situation - then I guess it is just one of those things that our kids will pass by - but at least my son is not saying he won't go to school at all - he is just saying he won't go on that first day. My ex might not see it from my point of view - but sometimes I know I just have to make my own decisions from my gut feelinsg. You will start to go by your gut feeling too on some things - it is hard though to fight in our minds with 'what we think others think we should be getting our kids to do' and what we know is the reality.
Until one day they may find out what causes this in our children - we are just going to have to find our own way forward and get as much support for our kids and ourselves as we can. There is no right or wrong way.
PPS SOrry my emails are sometimes soooooo long!!
Thank you so much for this. I really have to keep working on my daughter's self-esteem as it seems very low and she is very sensitive to everything. I am just considering working part-time to help support her further - but abit of a tricky financial situation - so we'll see.
I really hope things keep improving for your son - I think sometimes you do just have to let things slide and look at the bigger picture. I think also that as time goes on, your priorities change and what seemed incredibly important can get changed.
Please don't apologise about the length of your e-mails, just so happy to have some support.
Hi Sharry - just a thought but would your daughter feel better if she invited just one of the girls perhaps one she feels closest to? That way there would be no fear of being left out which can often happen in groups.
Hi Sandy - Thank you for this. I also thought this would be a good idea and hope to invite one towards the end of the week. We have all had a lovely day out today at a local theme park and you would never think my daughter had the concerns she has. We haven't mentioned her worries at all today and I think that it good for her for a few days, so that she doesn't always feel we are discussing it.
I only wish the happy feelings she has had today would last.
We are continuing to build up her self-esteem, but any advice you can give would always be very welcome. We just can't get her in the car on a morning to go to school as she is too worried to face her friends (even though this group of friends she has have all reassured her and are really lovely).
Anyway, thank you so much and it really sounds like your daughter is on the right track - so pleased for you.
That's great Sharry - so glad you were all able to enjoy the day at theme park. I know how confusing it can be though when they have days like this, kind of lulls you into a false sense of security. I never quite got over the sense of surprise when my daughter had a run of good days and then lost it again. I am so grateful that throughout our ordeal my daughter never really struggled socially. She has a wide range of friends and has managed to keep friendships going via social media and visits to homes. She does however constantly measure herself against all her peers and believes she is lacking. They were all wonderful to her throughout - never pressured her about why she wasn't at school and celebrated when she did get there. School was the major trigger and it was so bad that I had to spend up to an hour every morning trying to coax her out of bed - mostly failing. The stress of school refusal then caused her to become a very depressed and anxious girl and she would have regular melt downs, usually late at night when we were both exhausted, saying she wanted to die and begging for help. She always wanted to keep trying to go to school but it was like the proverbial mountain - round and round we went. For her a combination of medication and counselling has got us to where we are now but it was a long road, finding the right medication and the right counsellor. She also has a love of animals and horses in particular which has kept her grounded and given her something to focus on that she can do. I think this is a key in helping our children - if they can identify one thing they love that they are good at, it will build confidence and hopefully open them up to relationships with other like minded kids their age. Hope you continue to find ideas and encouragement through this group. xx
So glad things are still rolling along ok with you and your daughter.
Is your daughter still taking medication? What is she taking?
I sometimes feel that perhaps the medication my son is taking could be improved but maybe I just had too higher expectation of what medication might improve?
I love hearing about your progress - and especially the link to horses your daughter has.
I wish my son had kept up his socialisation - he just isn't interested anymore - he found it too difficult once at high school to try and improve the friendships with new kids who didn't know or understand. His friends at Primary school were just so supportive - but went to different schools for secondary school. But having said that - like you - he had good friends - but he still had meltdowns and found it impossible to keep going to school.
Now I struggle with the fact that this has been going on so long that he hates school and so isn't bothered in completing work. Oh well - we keep finding ways forward - and that is the main thing.
All the best
Hi Linda - yes my daughter is still on medication but we have been able to halve the dosage and she is doing well. She is on a drug called Escitalopram (there is another called citalopram but it is not as effective with anxiety apparently) She started on 10mg and at her worst went up to 20mg but is back on 10mg now. When she was younger she was on Lovan (Prozac) and that worked well but when she relapsed in Year 7 and we tried it again it didn't help her. We then tried a few different SSRI's and SNRI's under her psychiatrist but none of them did much, from memory we tried Zoloft, Luvox, Pristiq and Seroquel for her sleep issues. We had just about given up on medication when a friend of mine told me her husband and daughter were taking Escitalopram and it had helped them so my GP agreed to give it a trial and it has been great for her in conjunction with other therapy. It would be so good for your son if he could identify something he would like to pursue outside of school. Would it be worth getting him to look at all the TAFE courses that are available as he could do a combination of school and tafe - some of the ladies on our facebook site are from Victoria and are looking at doing a combination of school, tafe and distance education or just tafe and distance ed. If you want more info feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org. If he is more of a hands on learner like my daughter, tafe can be great for them as they can focus on one subject, only have one teacher to deal with and same kids every week.
Thank you for that. It is interesting with regard to medication, as we have been twice to our local GP and they have refused to prescribe anything for our daughter - saying she is too young to be on any medication. Perhaps I need to go back again, or to a different doctor and make some suggestions?
Also, it is great that your daughter has a love of animals and that this has helped her through. My daughter is passionate about ballet and has attended classes since she was 6. She is striving to be a professional ballerina and was doing fantastically well with this before this all started. She had already been an associate of The Royal Ballet School (from age 9 to 11) and Northern Ballet and was hoping to go to vocational school when she was 16 to train full-time to be a ballerina. She was attending ballet classes 5 times a week, locally and further afield. This is the really said thing, she is now finding is hard to go to dance classes, the very thing that she loves more than anything, as she is worried about her friendship group there. I can also see her dream slipping away from her, when she has worked so hard and achieved so much already.
Anyway, we'll see what happens after the Easter holidays. We are trying to remove all pressure from her and saying that with regard to school and dance classes that she must just try when she is ready - even if it's 1 dance class a week or 1 lesson a week at school.
We'll see what happens.
Regards and hope your situation continues to go from strength to strength.
Not sure what the system is in the UK in regard to prescribing medication but here you usually have to have it prescribed by a psychiatrist if the child is under 18. We saw a psychiatrist and she prescribed the mediation. The doctor is happy to be the one to renew the script - but they were unable to prescribe initially.
It might be the same. But you can ask and see what they say. Medication was the last resort for us but as it had been going on for so long I couldn't see any way forward. I felt the medication got my son out of a rut - and did move him forward - but I am not satisfied that it is actually doing much at all at the moment. But then again - if he wasn't taking it - he might not have been able to attend school at all. So it is a situation you just have to weigh up and make a personal decision.
It is so wonderful you daughter has had the ballet - I do hope she can just keep doing a class or two. I know some ballet companies can put an awful lot of pressure on the students to attend every class or they make them feel they are not quite belonging. SO I hope the ballet company is supportive. Have you spoken to them? They might actually be able to help you with your daughter as well. Perhaps they can help her with her self esteem and social anxiety?
A group of artist friends and I went to our local ballet company (I used to attend when a child....no where near as long as your daughter though) to sketch last year and then exhibit the paintings. We did this the year before when they did Coppelia and it was just lovely to have the paintings all exhibited and see the joy on the faces of students and parents alike. We sold a lot of paintings (mostly pastel - inspired by Degas' paintings of the ballet). So I really do hope your daughter can keep going - but if she can't - she has a wonderful background on which to later build or to look back on with great fondness.
See how you go with asking about medication. It might also be that the doctor would like you to try other alternatives fist? They don't know the long term effects of some medication - so it is a risk we have to weigh up. In my case I felt that my son's brain was already going down a bad path with his negative thoughts - and we had had the suicide thoughts and the morning meltdowns. My son no longer has morning 'meltdowns' but he does still have panic attacks where he just can't get to school - but no more curling up in a ball and crying an getting hysterical about how he felt. It used to be very scary for both of us - at least we don't have that any more!
I took my son around the streets talking photos of street art yesterday and I could see the anxiety running in his brain. He got annoyed when I stopped in a 'no parking' zone to hop out for two minutes to take a photo - and he nearly ran back into the car when he saw another teenager walking along the street. It was interesting to see him trying to cope in this environment. I kept just being 'matter of fact' and not pushing or criticising - but it took a lot of patience. We didn't finish the photo shoot - and now I don't know if he will put it all together - but I was proud of him for taking as many photos as he did in an environment he had never been before (inner city - a bit pokey - little lanes - etc).
We can only continue to encourage and remember the small steps are all good : )
Take care and hope to hear from you again soon -