school refusers

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Any advice for 11 year old.


I'm new to this site. So apologies If I ramble somewhat.

My daughter has had mild separation anxiety from being small but despite this has lead a normal life 100% attendance at school, went on school trips etc. however she has not made the transition to high school at all, we are on week 3 and have moved her to a more supportive school (they have been brilliant) the first high school threatended the police and me going to prison which just made matters worse. So we are undoing the damage their too. It appears she has acute separation anxiety at the moment and will not let me out of sight. She is getting up and dressed for school and we arrive but she will to leave me.

I'm finding it quite draining. I'm off sick at the moment to support her, and I've never had time off before.

She has been refferred to CAHMS but their is an 18months waiting list so we have enlisted a counsellor too.

Any suggestions or advice would be gratefully appreciated.

Should I push her and keep trying to get out of sight? Does medication work? does several careers help e.g. Grandparents taking to school or is consistency best?

A lot of question I know but I don't know where to turn next.


Re: Any advice for 11 year old.

Hi Julie

Sorry to hear you are having a tough time right now.
Often transition to high school can be a trigger for school refusal, although the signs can be there much earlier, like you noticed.

If you can get her grandparents to take her, give it a go, Basicially giving anything a go is worth a try. Consistency isn't necessarily a help in terms of who takes your daughter to school.

Whilst schools can differ in their supporr and/or understanding, the anxiety issue does travel, which is why you are finding it is still there.
Medication can certainly help and I wish we had got onto the current medication sooner, but age is a factor in what they can prescribe. It isn't the answer, but it can take the edge off the anxiety and then they can work on cognitive behaviour techniques.

One thing we have learnt from the current psychologist and looking back is that all this pushing to get our kids to school and them so often not being able to make it, can result in enormous loss of self esteem. So whilst going to school is obviously important, it is also important that you do everything you can to not have your whole life (and that of your daughter) evolve around 'school'. Find as many distractions from mentioning school as you can and build as many positives as you can, including praise, into your daughter's life.

The other thing is to try and get her to keep up with friendships either in real life or on line (if a positive experience). Not going to school can be isolating but if they keep a link, no matter how small, to family and friends, they won't feel lonely. Are you able to create lots of opportunities for your daughter to interact with family or your friends and their families?

See if you can get the counsellor to work on the positives and self esteem too. Can you speed CAHMS up if you let them know it is a mental health issue? It seems ro me they are not taking this seriously if the wait is 18 months. There is often a long wait but that is the longest I have ever heard of, so I'd be questioning them.

Keep up with some school work so your daughter doesn't get left behind, but also remember that in the long run, not all education comes from school. So you can educate her in other ways. If it still doesn't improve, there are some support groups listed in the resource section on this website and there are also some on-line schooling options.
Does she play a sport or play piano or dance or like to bake or do something creative? They are often good things to work with outside of school and your daughter will also look back at those as being great positives in what can turn into a sea of negatives.

Sorry I don't have a magic answer, but it does get easier eventually. Some kids also go back to school full time with medication and cognitive behaviour. Others like my son, miss so much school they should fail, but they still pass. As they grow older, they also mature and that separation fear starts to go, but then they have isolated themselves so much that they then might need to break down social anxiety, which my son is now doing. The current psychologist believes it is not true social anxiety but it came about from missing so much school and then not being able to fit in properly as friends tend to move on or haven't shared certain experiences with them.
I can say, however, that my son is in a positive place right now and the psychologist is feeling very positive about the future. So it is a rocky road...but there is a future and if you can fill the present with as many positives as possible, your daughter might recover quicker. Right now she is probably feeling very confused and scared about how strong the anxiety is, and how out of her control it is. So hugs and see what the grandparents can do to help her and yourself. Maybe they could also do some school work at home with her if she doesn't get to school and you have to be back at work?
Family don't always understand, but make sure they know it is not you being soft, but a mental health issue that needs support.

Let us know how you go and feel free to ask any further questions,
take care,
Linda xx

Re: Any advice for 11 year old.

Hi Linda,

Thank you so much for your positive words it has really helped. As we encouraged and built in a lot of praise, over the last couple of weeks, we felt as though we weren't tough enough or that somehow she was in charge, so to speak. It's difficult when you see others families appearing to make parenting a breeze and that in turn makes us feel under pressure.

We are coping but day to day at the moment. We have counselling booked for Monday which is along side the school now she is in, or at least obtaining work to help her not fall behind, since she is not actually attending lessons.

She loves school and enjoys social friendships but the separation from me is holding her back.
I think medication could be the next step.

I did notice that she has some traits of a mild spectrum disorder (I used to be a TA in a school) she can't seem to wear socks with a seam that touches her toes. I noticed she cut the toes out of her school tights this morning, other items of clothing can cause her to fuss a lot too, for example pants not fitting correctly and cutting labels out of clothes.

I hope your son is doing well and am sure in adulthood he will really appreciate all the time, effort and support you have given him in his younger years.

Thanks again for your support at this difficult time for us.

Re: Any advice for 11 year old.

Hi Julie

Go with your gut feeling. Punishment and consequences never work though! Not if it is true anxiety. They'd rather suffer the consequences! I used to get frustrated when the teachers and even the psychologists, when my son was quite young, would tell me to use a star chart, and then he'd get a reward if he went to school. The chart sat idle as he didn't care if he never got a star or was rewarded. That doesn't help where you are are now, but if you do keep the praise for anything your daughter does, her self esteem won't drop so low that it takes enormous effort to build it up again.

If you suspect her being on the spectrum, can you push for a CAMHS appointment?
Take care...and keep up your own strength.

Re: Any advice for 11 year old.

Quite right, Linda!

Keeping the doors open for the return to 'normality' is so important. The lower they go, the more difficult it is to get back up. And that applies to we parents as well!

Re: Any advice for 11 year old.


So we're a number of weeks further in this term. My 11 year has been diagnosed with separation anxiety and to be honest the signs have always been there when I look back now.

However, this is causing a real problem as she will not let me out of sight, I am currently attending school and sitting in the doorway of her class. She will willingly go in and enjoy the lesson but needs to be able to see me.

It's heart breaking, the therapy she's having is really small steps but it appears she is just suffering in a prolonged situation. Many people are saying to me to be firm and just either leave her at home or take her to school and leave her. But as you can image at 11 she is nearly the size of me!! Either way she would be in panic mode. Has anyone ever tried this exposure method? I'm sure my therapist would not agree but facing her fears could be answer as my gp said. Obviously she wouldn't agree if that's what I said I was going to do.

CAMHS have said we could possibly be seen in 3 months with a trainee, but I seriously can't sit in school with her Until then. The school are very supportive and even suggested to her today to sit in the heads office while I was out of sight. She refused this too.

My family are helping out but me and my husband are at logger heads as I am 'softly softly' and he is 'get on with it'

Any advice?


Re: Any advice for 11 year old.

Hi Julie

This is a tough one and one which we all seem to face at some stage and one to which I really don't have the answer!
I think the exposure is ok if it is school she is fearful of - but if it is separation anxiety - it's not necessarily school that is actually the problem. It makes it worse - because schools can be isolating places or too much going on all at once when you have anxiety - but it's the leaving you that is the problem. My son and most kid's with school refusal seem to have this in varying degrees. It becomes ' school refusal' as a result of the anxiety. You might need to experiment to see if the anxiety is present if separation occurs in situations outside of school?

Sorry I don't have the answers but hang in there - you are trying whatever you think might help. Keep her self esteem up and see if you can learn as much about cognitive behaviour therapy in relation to dealing with anxiety as you can and the apply that in your interactions with your daughter.

They do say with 'fears' that constant exposure breaks them down. The psychologists never seem to quite get their head around this one with school refusal though, as they can't tell if it is the school or the separation. If it is the separation - then exposing your daughter to separations when in other situations in small doses might help. Going to a library and saying you'll meet her at the front desk in 5-10 mins or something. Or telling her to go into the next isle in the supermarket and get the cereal for you? Or when out - ask her to go into the shop/petrol station if she wants a drink? Do it 'matter of factly' so that she doesn't have time to think it through and give her lots of praise afterwards as being a great help to you. And she is less likely to over react in such a place. But also don't leave her alone for long at any one time but increase it slowly until you perhaps stay in the car and ask if she can just pop in and get a carton of milk. It almost worked with my son except that he can't do this in the local shops as he is still fearful he'll see one of his peers - as this is the social anxiety now speaking.

If you can build her self confidence in separation from you in such small doses - she might not feel the leap into school as so large. Just an idea. Would the school consider half days building up to longer? Or an hour first week - two hours the second week etc. It has to be slow enough to work. Rushing and pushing just don't work.
And there is always a good cop bad cop in the one house or even in separate houses (as Simon pointed out once) so don't worry - we all do things differently.
Let us know how you go -