school refusers


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School Refusal
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Do we keep on trying?

Dear All

Sorry to bother everyone - I do seem to have been on this forum quite a lot since I found it, but it really is such a support.

This is my question ...

When the School term starts again, do we continue to ensure our daughter is up and in uniform etc and keep on trying to see if she will get in the car to go to school (we have tried many other options - having people come to collect her, people getting her out of the car at school etc) or do we just say that we will be providing some home tuition for her (for the short-term) so that she doesn't have to go through the worry each day of trying to go to school? I am worried that if we do the latter, she will think that she never has to go to school again and won't have faced her fears. However, if this means she is more relaxed and able to trust people again, would this be for the better?

We have also tried suggesting that she just goes in for her favourite lessons, but she is so worried that people will ask questions, this doesn't seem to be an option, although we think this could help enormously as she would then be socialising with her school friends and getting used to being at school again.

The difficulty is getting her to school - she seems to be able to manage the day, if only we can get her there.

Thank you and I hope everyone is enjoying there Easter holidays - just wish it was abit longer.

Regards.

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sharry

Mmm - it is a dilemma, isn't it. I can only say you will just have to go with your gut feeling on this one.
The research on School Refusal does point to trying to break down the barrier of the fear of getting there but it can take its toll on everyone in the family. I have been doing this, however, but as I have mentioned - my ex takes my son the first two days of the week - which seems to help for at least a couple of more days attendance.
For my son I feel it is very important that he does keep socialising as he is an only child and in a single parent family. He does socialise with others on-line sometimes - but he gets a bit sick of that as it is not the same as face to face.

Does your daughter 'want' to actually be at school? Apart from the fear - is she someone who does the work? Does homework? Get's by ok in the 'school' situation? If so - it might just be worth trying for a bit longer.
If she really doesn't want to be there (apart from the not wanting to 'get' there) then you might have to weigh up home schooling. But it could well be long term. You might have to look at it as possible short term but potentially something she just has to keep doing as once she looses contact with friends (if she does) she may find it hard to go back. If she does home schooling - keeping in touch with friends outside of school will then I guess be one of your top priorities.

Sorry I don't have the answers - can only go by my experience and personal feelings and also experiences by others on this forum - where either can eventually work or sometimes there is no other option.
It isn't easy - you are probably feeling sick in the stomach about it....I often go down that road and there is no right or wrong- just whatever you decide to go with - stick it out for awhile and if it doesn't work - try the other.
Good luck and yes - I wish the holiday break was longer too!!
My son's teacher has said he doesn't have to present his project to the class . I emailed her and was so glad she emailed back - even in the holidays. She wants him very much to attend school on the first day back though - to see what the others are presenting. I can only try and convince my son - but sometimes - actually often ...I wish I didn't have to go through any of this.
Take c are and keep coming back.....there is good support on here. It was my life saviour a few years back when I had no where else to go - my first posting I could hardly read through the tears. The support on here made me realise I wasn't alone and that made a huge difference. So hopefully you can feel the same : )
Linda xx

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Linda

Thank you so much for this. I can tell my daughter is already worried about going back. I think we will keep trying to get her up on a morning, but perhaps reassure her the night before that if she can't make it in, that's fine, for the moment.

Prior to this she was a high achiever at school and always keen to do her homework. She was captain of most of the sports teams and attended ballet classes 5 times a week outside of school. She really lived life to the full and if ever I suggested slowing down a bit, she wouldn't hear of it. She would be arranging sleepovers with her friends and always busy going different places.

I have to keep reminding her (and myself) that this is a difficult stage in her life, but she will get through it and she will learn to trust friends again. I also try not to think too much into the future as it can just create more upset.

I also think it would be worthwhile if some of these SR's could actually message each other - to actually speak to another teenager who has been through this - but this would be so difficult and probably quite painful for all concerned - unless anyone can think of another way around this.

Your Son sounds like he's getting on well at school and it is interesting how once they reach one goal, as parents, we are then keen for the next step (ie: attending on the first day of term) - when a few months ago, we would have been happy for any attendance at all.

All the very best to you and your family. I am trying to sound as relaxed and calm as possible - in training for when my daughter goes back - when inside I am very concerned!

Regards.

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sharry
Of course you're concerned, it seems parents of children with SR that's all we do sometimes

I agree with other posts, deciding what your daughter will do in the m ornings is something only you and your family can decide. What works for one doesn't for another.

In our case, I eventually stopped, as I just couldn't go through the physical and mental stress of trying to get my daughter to the car every morning.
Nor could I deal with any more stalling for time, crying, negotiating etc. It felt like it was tearing our home apart.


Believe me, many times I wondered why it should be happening to us, and many times I was so angry with myself and as for the sense of failure (overwhelming). I still feel I failed her in some way, don't think that will ever go.

Hope everyone's enjoying the Easter break and that the weather is lovely.

Take care

Virginia

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Dear Virginia

Thank you for this and your kind words. I think I am concerned that if we don't keep trying, my daughter may lose hope that she'll ever be able to go. I see you went down the home-schooling route and I see that on a previous post you mentioned that at 19 your daughter was in college and a different girl.

Did you find that this was very gradual ie: did your daughter eventually feel confident enough to give College a try or were there steps before this that you felt worked for her, leading up to this point? I am just trying to glean if I can try any approach I haven't already thought of.

Thank you so much and I am so pleased for you that your daughter is enjoying her education.

Regards.

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sharry

It's a great site to post on isn't it? People are so supportive which is just what a parent going through what you're going through at the moment needs. It is so tough, and while it's not happening to me now, I guarantee you never forget it.

With my daughter it was a gradual change. She enjoyed doing the school work at home, and yes there were times she was angry that she 'had' to be there but she genuinely couldn't face continuing with school.

But she was smart enough, like all SR Children, to see that if she wanted to progress she had to take a chance and try college.

Her confidence has recovered somewhat, but her trust in others has been shaken. Girls who had professed to be her friends treated her very badly around the time she was12/14 and that is such a sensitive time for teens and she felt very let down and foolish, I think.

A child who had had confidence to burn suddenly couldn't bear to leave the house. I only wish these people knew/realised the damage that can be done treating a friend so badly.

I am so glad to see her improving and can only hope it will continue.

As parents we would do anything for them wouldn't we?

Wishing you all the best. And post here anytime. It is so good for ourselves to speak to others who understand exactly what we are/have been going through.

Virginia

ps. sorry for the long post.

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Virginia and Sharry

It's always good to hear your updates, Virginia. Glad things are moving along ok - you know well the rocky road and the stress it involves. Just so sad that what your daughter went through zapped her of all her confidence and self esteem (same with yours, Sharry). Our children are very sensitive - and perhaps more so these days - and so bullying of any kind can really set them back. I am not sure that schools are aware enough of this.
When my son was being 'teased/bullied' whatever you want to name it - they told me that unless my son complained - they would not do anything about it. Of course my son was not going to complain because he thought he might then get even more negative attention. Lucky for him this all stopped and he was able to move on - but it really dragged him down for awhile (it was not the cause of the SR - but made it worse as it happened when he started secondary and was missing so much school - some kids just picked on him for it). But if this is the attitude of schools - then how on earth are we, as parents, going to get them to sit up and listen. It is also a long term educational thing - for both students and their parents. Parents need to be made aware if their child is bullying someone. Both the bully and the victim need help. We still have a long way to go on this it seems.

As for getting my son back after easter - it didn't happen. But for us it was only two days - (we have a holiday today/friday as well for Anzac Day - those killled at Gallipoli. So I have just let this week slide. Unfortunately my ex was as usually texting and emailing ' did he go - did he get there...'. I had to lie - I didn't want all the emotion that goes with 'well - why not - he has to go...you have to get him there!' scenario. I am sure you all understand what I mean. Sometimes we go by our gut feeling and know that things won't happen and there is no use making our children feel even worse than they do.
Hope you all had a relaxing time over Easter...
Linda

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Linda and Virginia

Thank you both for your comments.

Linda - I think sometimes you have to just think that tomorrow is another day and I think you are so right to go with your gut instinct. I really hope things are okay for you next week and that your son keeps on progressing.

Following the support on this forum and the strategies that others have used on here, we have now taken all pressure off our daughter with regard to attending school. It is true that we managed to get her there a few weeks ago, but it was only because I had 'arranged' for friends to get her out of the car when we got there, or for people to collect her from our house. The week after that she didn't go at all, because she thought someone would be waiting for her.

She now gets up every morning and puts her uniform on and so far we have got into the car and driven half-way down the road to school and then she asks if we can turn back. We then return home and she starts the school work I have set her for the day. I then go to work - albeit a bit late. I then come in every lunchtime (luckily I only work 5 minutes away) and she is keen to show me the work she has completed.

I can see that she is much happier in herself and I have said that we are just going to go at her own pace. We also have a visit from the ESW week, so it will be interesting to see what she says. This does also mean that she isn't upset on a morning when she can't go.

HOWEVER, I do keep wondering if she is only happier because she doesn't have to worry about school and that she will think she never really has to go. Are we just completely avoiding the problem, rather than actually addressing it? I can see we could continue like this for at least another 3-6 months and still not achieved the objective of going to school, but her self-esteem may be improving.

Yes, everyone is much calmer and less stressed, but how long should we continue like this before we look at other solutions? We have also tried 3 sessions of hypnotherapy, with 1 more to go next week, and though my daughter says this has helped a bit, she still feels too anxious to go, so not sure if we need to have more sessions or not?

Anyway, that's the update - not sure if we're making progress at all or just putting our heads in the sand!

Thank you to everyone for your support.

Regards.



Re: Do we keep on trying?

hi Sharry

Things do sound so much calmer for you than when you first came on the forum...so that is a real positive!
Each child finds their own way so it is hard to know what to recommend regarding when to push that bit more or see what else you can do. The fact that your daughter does all her school work is a real plus (as I have mentioned -my son is reluctant to do any school work - but perhaps that is typical male teenager?).

It does sound like your daughter needs to build her self esteem so this might take some time just doing what you are doing now. It might also build up your daughter's confidence when you talk with her to say she'll give something a go. At the moment she is probably scared of the repeat stress in a morning and so will avoid anything you suggest - but in time - she might give going back to school a go. It might be just for short sessions.
As girls mature quicker than boys - you might be more lucky than me!! : ) I do hope so - as it is so lovely your daughter is keeping up with the work.

You mentioned SR kids talking with each other. It would be good - and there was a site set up by two girls who had SR in the UK - I think it is listed as a resource on here - not sure if it is still active or not. My son has said he doesn't really want to talk about it - but perhaps that is just avoidance again.
Ok - got to go. Let us know how you progress
Take care
Linda xx

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sharry

glad things have calmed down for the moment.
it's good that your daughter is willing to do her school work at home.

letting her self-esteem improve is a good thing, as is taking the pressure of her to go to school.
nothing positive was being achieved making her go, and to be honest, there's no magic answer to whether she will go back or not. only time will tell.

you may have to think about whether you can handle her not going back, and if she doesn't, then what can be done.

in the meantime, let her heal in the peace. praise her for her willingness to keep up with her school work, and see how things go.

wishing you both all the best.

Virginia

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Thank you Linda and Virgina for your kind words and support. It is always appreciated.

I think we will carry on down this road for a few weeks and then we will perhaps have to think about other options - though not sure what these are at present.

We have had a lovely weekend but I know that within a short while, the worry will start, but we'll just keep going with positive reassurance.

On a plus note, her old brother is being absolutely fantastic with her. Instead of constantly asking if she's okay or focussing on it, he is just being himself and they are just getting on and doing stuff together like always - I am so grateful for this.

Here's hoping for a calm week - too much to expect this week for any school attendance I think, but at least we aren't all as stressed out!

Regards to you all and I hope things continue to improve for your son Linda x


Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sharry

Glad things are better at the moment - and great your son is able to interact as he used to. Just enjoy where things are at the moment and take things as they come (easier said than done!!). Virginia is right though - you will find out one way or the other if going back is the road or not and whatever it is - just embrace your daughter. Make sure she knows you are always there for support -as it sounds like you do. She is so lucky she has you as a supportive mum and making sure that things are taken slowly.

My son went in to school today : )
My ex took him to school - so it had to happen - but I am proud of my son for just getting up and going. His dad has offered to take him every morning this week as he has some time - I have agreed it is a good idea. I think my son needs to just get up and go for a week and then get into the swing of things. He tends to go for a couple of days and then gets so worn out that he can't face going for the last couple of days of the week - so he hardly ever has a full week. I am just waiting for the day when i see a glimmer of motivation in him to complete school projects/work.
But -I'll just take things as they come at the moment as this is his first day back after having had three weeks off!

Is the school providing work for your daughter as a regular thing? Have they offered any tutoring? You are evidently entitled to home tutoring if a student for health reasons is unable to attend school. Most schools don't mention this but if you make them look into it - they are supposed to provide this. They may claim it has to be a physical illness but in fact, they cannot argue that a mental illness does not lead to a physical illness because our children suffer physically from the mental anguish they go through. Perhaps enquire and see what the school says.

Take care - and enjoy this break from the tension you have had to suffer recently.
Linda xx

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sharry - just wanted to encourage you - you are doing the very best for your daughter and I'm sure you will find what works for her and your family.
Our situation was very similar in that my daughter who is now 16, was fine once we got her to school but getting her out of bed, dressed and in the car was impossible. We battled from years 2-4 in primary school then had a form of breakthrough due I think to a combination of medication, counselling and a change in schools which was only because we moved house but I think it helped her as it was a fresh start and she coped well for years 5 & 6. Unfortunately at the beginning of high school - year 7, it all came crashing down again and she never really managed to get back to school full time. Throughout, she always wanted to go to school and be "normal" so we persevered. We also had the added pressure like Linda, of an absent father thinking we just needed to "make" her go - although he now has a much better grasp of her situation. I will add that although my daughter appeared to be fine while at school, we have now learned that she was in fact just able to bottle her anxiety and get through the day, but it would come out in other ways. Every night she would convince herself and me that she would be ok to go the next day but every morning it was the same old story. We tried just about everything - some things worked better than others but it was only temporary. The usual procedure was for me to go into her bedroom for an initial wake up - wait 15 minutes then go back in and begin the "encouragement" to get up. In retrospect I always knew fairly quickly whether there was a chance she would actually get out of bed but up until the very end I always kept trying because I felt so much pressure from all sides to get her back to school. Some days this procedure could take up to an hour just to get her on her feet, but usually once she was out of bed she would go to school although the getting dressed etc could take a long time. Unfortunately, I have always had to work and she knew that at some point I would have to give up and leave for work. When she was younger this meant I had to take her to her nan's or other relative. The stress I felt when we reached that point was horrendous and even worse when she was old enough to stay at home by herself. She has been medicated since year 7 and although this hasn't cured her anxiety about school, it has helped tremendously with the resulting depression and allowed her to live a somewhat normal life outside school. We were very lucky in that she doesn't seem to suffer with social anxiety outside of school - maintains friends etc and she was never bullied. She did worry about what kids would say about her non attendance but they seemed to just accept that this was her norm and were very kind to her when she did go. Her school were supportive of her if we could actually get her there, but couldn't do much outside of that except for lightening the load regarding homework etc. In year 7 she had a wonderful home room teacher who would ring her Sunday nights and at the end of holidays to talk her through coming the next day and would meet her at the office each morning but unfortunately in year 8 and beyond, she didn't have the same support. My daughter had no interest in doing school work at home and always refused to consider home education or distance education and I knew deep down she wouldn't do the work. I didn't really have the option to home school as I work to support our family. We have been to many counsellors, psychologists and a psychiatrist over the years. Some did help her, some were terrible. Finally late last year we found a lady through our gp who offered to try hypnotherapy. I sat in on the sessions and found it very positive. We had some initial success but it didn't seem to follow through - the counsellor is a mental health nurse and had such a good grasp of our situation. After a handful of sessions she switched tactics and began a type of cognitive therapy involving getting my daughter to draw her answers instead of trying to verbalise them. This uncovered so much more than all the other types of therapy combined and we began to see changes in her ability to cope with life and make some decisions regarding her future. It was becoming very obvious that she wasn't going to finish schooling in the traditional sense, but her school offered her a way to stay enrolled, she is only doing one subject which is her favourite - drama - and she is also enrolled through the school to do a tafe (technical and further education) course - animal care - which she is passionate about. This means she only goes to tafe one afternoon a week and school one afternoon a week. She has also begun working as a farm assistant on weekends as we rent a cottage on a horse stud. This has made a huge difference to her self esteem as she is doing something she loves and can finally see a future for herself. She is growing in confidence and maturity each week and we finally feel like life is worth living again. The whole process took a massive toll on our family (I have one older daughter who had to live through this as well) but we have grown very close as a result.
My daughters each have a horse. My school refuser rides and my older daughter has a little pony we rescued that she is training. We have been following a particular trainer who has a video subscription and were watching videos on the weekend. I was amazed at how similar anxiety is for both human and equine. He describes each horse as having a "worry cup". Some horses have nothing in their cups, some cups are full and some are overflowing. When their cup is overflowing they can't learn anything and their behaviours are all over the place and can even be dangerous. His focus is on getting their worry cup to empty - and I think this is what you are doing now with your daughter by not pushing her to actually attend school and remaining calm if she can't achieve attendance. As someone who suffered from panic attacks and depression myself I know that once that cup is overflowing, it takes a lot to get it down to a manageable level again and often the thing that we are afraid of isn't the real issue, ie I couldn't go to restaurants or meetings because I felt trapped, but it wasn't actually the restaurant or meeting that had caused me to feel anxious. My cup was overflowing because of a traumatic relationship I had recently ended. I don't know if you always need to find out why, but in the end it did help my daughter as she realised the anxiety wasn't who she was, and once she worked through some of the issues, the fear began to lessen. It's hard to know whether if we had begun this therapy earlier if she could have managed to get back to school as I really don't think she was mature enough to comprehend and work through her deep seated issues most of which revolved around her dad leaving us when she was a baby. Sorry for the essay, this is such a complex issue and every child is suffering in a different way but as parents, we are all in the same boat. We are all here for you - hope this helps in some way. xx

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sandy,

that was an excellent post.
i found the comparsion between the anxiety in the horse and human fascinating.

i've been very lucky and have never suffered from anxiety/depression myself, so have always tried but failed to truly understand how it affects someone.
during the years of dealing with my daughter's SR, i often had to fight down the want to say 'just go' 'just get on with it'.
it is really difficuly, tbh probably imposswible for me to fully understand how someoine in that position feels, so reading your post gives me some insight.

take care.

Virginia.

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hello Sandy

Thank you so much for this - I really do appreciate your support and advice. We are trying to take the pressure off, but my daughter really is very sensitive at the moment. We just drove past the school this morning, but she was so worried in case someone saw her - anyway, we'll keep doing this for as long as required.

She has been for her 4th hypnotherapy session this evening and though she feels slightly less worried, it would have been good if the results were a little more dramatic! Anyway, I am now looking at art psychotherapy, as this is meant to help with anxiety - just not sure if I want to go through all the explanation again and paying for yet more sessions - however, if it works, of course it will be worth it.

So we'll just keep on at the moment.

Thank you so much to all who have responded to my post.

Good luck to everyone for continued progress.

Regards x

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Thanks Virginia - glad it helped. Funny thing is even when you have experienced anxiety and depression yourself, it is still hard to deal with someone else's. I get so frustrated with my daughter because she can't deal with her illness the same way I did. We are all different and have different ways of coping and I had to come to a place where I accepted there are things she just can't do at any given point in time. Doesn't mean she won't in the future but there is no point bashing my head against a wall to try to make her do it now.
Sharry I know what you mean about the explanations.... we have seen over 6 psychologists/counsellors and a psychiatrist as well as our gp. Then there are the friends and relatives that you have to keep explaining to. I got to the point where I am very selective about who I speak to about my daughter's illness as there are some who will never understand no matter how much explaining I do. We are blessed in Australia to get some financial support to see private therapists, as a single mum I know how hard it can be financially. It may help before you take your daughter to see someone to have a chat to the therapist first to try to find out how they will approach her treatment, whether they have dealt specifically with anxiety/school phobia etc. I made the mistake of dragging my daughter to a few initially and found out very quickly they had no idea. Take care.

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hello All - Thank you for all your kind comments.

Just a little unsure what to do at the moment. We have been driving to school every morning, but my daughter has been unable to get out of the car to go to school. The idea was that we would then build up to stopping and then perhaps trying to get out at a later date. However, after several weeks, we have not moved forward. I just wonder if we would be better not even trying, as my daughter starts off the morning really happy and then as soon as she puts her uniform on and we return from trying, she is then upset and really fed-up for the rest of the day. Would we be better not even trying or will this feel like giving up?

So difficult to know - my daughter said she would feel like she was giving up if we don't do this, but yet I can see this is no good for her self-esteem.

Not sure where we go from here.

Any advice, greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sharry

It's a good thing to keep trying every schoolday, but as you said, the not being able to go to the next step is upsetting your daughter.

But it's so great that she wants to continue it. She sounds like a very brave person who's trying so hard.

Does she have any ideas herself on how she could take that next step?

Take care

Virginia

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hello - Thank you for that Virginia

My daughter is trying very hard and we had thought we might have found a way forward - the School have a portakabin on the school grounds that is used for some lessons. We had heard that a few years ago one girl did all her GCSE work and exams in there, as she couldn't get into the school.

However, we have just heard today that this will only be available for 2-3 hours a week and my daughter has to be in the main classrooms by the end of July otherwise she won't be able to do her GCSE's.

As the portakabin is out of the way, we had thought she may be able to make it into here and then in time progress to the classrooms (her difficulty is getting out of the car and she doesn't want anyone to see her) but really can't see that happening before July!

Anyway, we'll see what next week brings.

We are also deciding whether or not to start her on medication, but again, not sure if it will be more harm than good - she is 14.

Well, it will soon be the weekend, so that's good.

Thank you and regards x

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Dear Sharry

Just a thought... would school let her go in at 7.30 or something so that there is no one else there to see her? Also, is there another way to get to school, bus? bike?

Also, I wanted to share that I am seeing a counsellor myself and that it really helps to be told that you are doing all you can, that it's not your fault and you are not a bad parent. You may not find any answers but it certainly makes me feel better anyway. I also meditate and go running. If I didn't I would go nuts!

Sam x

Re: Do we keep on trying?

Hi Sammi

Thank you for this. Some good suggestions there. She isn't happy about starting earlier, as she just doesn't want her friends to see her doing anything different, she is just so sensitive at the moment. We could also consider biking to School (as it's just over a mile) but I fear we would still have the same difficulty - but I will suggest it.

As I mentioned, we are considering medication, but don't want to make things worse for her, especially as she is still happy to go out and about with us outside of school and is reasonably confident when she isn't thinking about school.

It is so hard, as I can see her future slipping away from her, but I do try not to think about this too much. I feel as if I'm just about holding it all together, but it is very difficult as I work full-time and keep having time off - think I will have to reduce my hours soon.

I don't know your situation, but whatever it is, I really hope things move forward for you.

Regards.

Sharry