04-04-2022 02:32 PM - last edited on 04-13-2022 10:20 AM by Philippa-RO
My son is 12 and started high school this year.
He was nervous and anxious about starting high school but did have a 'good' friend going to the same school, so was a little more relaxed about the idea.
Upon starting, his friend is in a different class and has connected with other friends from their previous primary school and hangs with them all the time.
My son has sadly not made any new friends and doesn't feel comfortable around his good friend, not feeling welcomed or comfortable in the new friend group.
My son has been sitting by himself recess and lunch and now, has refused to go to school.
He has not been to school very much at all since the first week of term. I am so worried about his education and how much he is missing out on. What's more concerning, is his mental health.
My son was once a very 'life of the party' type kid, so funny, so much fun to be around and to have around, loud, engaging and literally lit up a room. He had friends that he was active with. He was very active with sport and was always busy doing stuff, being sports, drawing or writing. He has now become very withdrawn, very quiet, not talking, not socialising, not leaving the house, not doing sport, not leaving his room. He doesn't sleep well and is not eating so much. He no longer feels comfortable even going in to his fav takeaway store asking for a burger and chips at the counter. He is extremely anxious at even doing those simple tasks that were once never an issue for him. We have worked together to try to get through those fears and anxieties with the simple tasks in small increments but with him not leaving the house, it's proving more difficult.
I have been in contact with the school, spoken to them on so many occasions, met with them and have tried to get professional help for him too but it is impossible to get an appointment, but I persevere. The school has been helpful and understanding and even suggested that he come into the school for a period or half a day, but no, he hasn't done that.
My son does not generally share his feelings and really DISLIKES talking about his feelings with anyone, but I have been gently trying to get him to open up to me. He has said that he fears the loneliness at school, he fears being alone, fears that he doesn't have any friends at school, that he doesn't know the work (especially after being away for so long), that he fears the sadness of sitting alone at recess and lunch and gets extremely anxious whenever we talk about school. His whole demeanour changes in an instant.
Over the past few weeks, he has not left his bed in the mornings until the middle of the day, just so down and depressed. He has said over the past few weeks that he would 'go to school tomorrow', but the next day would come, and nothing, he would just be in his bed, too anxious to leave.
A glimmer of light happened last week and today when he said that he would go to school and he did actually get up for school but then felt so anxious about it, retreated and went back to bed. I did celebrate the 'small' win with him about actually getting up out of bed on time, to encourage this behavior and feeling again.
So.... he has been at home. Alot. And here's the next part.... he is addicted to gaming.
He continues to say that that is the only thing in the world that makes him happy. He doesn't actually have to see anyone and he can talk to anyone. It is a CONSTANT battle, challenge, at times argument, to get him off the gaming. Seeing that he is at home, I tell him that he can at least try to do some schoolwork, the only problem is the computer he uses for schoolwork is the same for gaming, so generally, I find him not doing the school work and doing the gaming. He then says that it makes him happy.
I have limited times for the computer use, I have limited internet usage but generally, both of these end up in huge arguments where he is so incredibly enraged with me. It is a constant battle. We have drawn up 'contracts' where we have both agreed to the details and when he breaks that, I turn off the internet (part of the contract) but he then gets so very angry and then refuses to do absolutely anything (not that he is doing anything anyway).
He doesn't want to socialise with any of friends or even talk to them.
He has only left the house once in the past 2 weeks and that's when I eventually convinced him to walk our dogs with me - so we did one lap around the park and he couldn't wait to get home - it was a total of 15 minutes outside in over 2 weeks.
Today I said I would take him to the library, we can do some schoolwork, just hang out and they have a cafe there so have something to eat, but he doesn't want to leave the house. Those 15mins around the park were impossible to get yesterday and any time out of the house now is just not happening.
I hope he goes to school tomorrow, if even for just one period, but in reality, I don't see it happening.
His not leaving the house is also getting to me as I'm not leaving the house. I feel imprisoned in my own home with him not wanting to leave. We have been asked to go to my sister's for dinner and he said that he feels anxious around them and doesn't want to go.
I know I just have to wait until professional help but that could be months and months away. Some places I rang said that they have closed their books indefinitely and others said that it could be at least a 6 month wait and that's only if something becomes available then.
The longer time moves on, the more withdrawn from everything and everyone he is becoming and also the more he is not attending school.
I'm lost as to what to do to help him.
04-05-2022 04:38 PM
@Bobo2018 I'm so sorry to hear about all you and your son are going through - that sounds so hard.
I can hear the sadness in your words when you talk about your son's pain and isolation, and I really feel for you.
It's heartbreaking to hear about how intense your son's fear is of the loneliness he feels at school - human beings are social creatures, and no-one should have to experience that level of pain while trying to get an education.
I was wondering - does your son have any suggestions or ideas of things that he thinks might be helpful?
Re: the gaming, it sounds like he feels safe and connected in the gaming world, and it's understandable that he'd be feeling a pull to that when he's feeling so isolated.
Would there be any possibility of using the gaming to connect with other young people in a safe way - eg. inviting a friend around to game together, or playing online with someone he'd like to get to know better in real life?
In terms of support for your son, I'm hearing you when you say it's hard to get professional support at the moment - a lot of people have been saying it's become more difficult since COVID.
One thing I was wondering about is whether a program like Cool Kids might be worth considering if it interests you and your son. It's run in a variety of settings, including online.
In the meantime, while you try to access other supports, do you think your son would consider connecting with a counsellor through a service such as Kids Helpline or eheadspace?
In case you'd like to take a look, we also have some articles on our website about school refusal and social anxiety, and we also have a one-to-one parent coaching service if that would be helpful.
Do you have much support for yourself, or things you like to do that help in hard times?
We're always here any time to talk things through or to help in any way we can.
Please let us know how things go.
04-06-2022 10:21 AM
I have almost exactly the same issue.
My 16yo has depression, reading issues, is wanting to transition gender...and is now claiming minor psychotic episodes (occasionally seeing things at the periphery).
The gaming aspect is so challenging - they are the most vocal and engaged when playing online. I want them to get off, I feel it's an addition (they play all the time and say it's the only thing that helps).
School refusal is an ongoing issue and it's almost impossible to get professional support.
We're on so many waiting lists. And before anyone suggests Reachout one-on-one counseling, their first appointment is 1 month from now.
My 14yo is also refusing school. As I type this I'm trying to figure out how to get them to school by end of recess.
My wife and I are at our wit's end.
04-06-2022 01:09 PM
Hi @mick_, it sounds like you can very much relate to @Bobo2018. It is so hard to see our young ones suffer and make choices that we know are unhelpful for them in the long term.
It can be extremely disheartening when you reach out for support and end up on a waitlist. Hopefully, these waitlists move quickly for you so that you can get professional support ASAP.
I thought it might be useful to share some resources that you can use in the meantime:
Another good resource is Parentline. Parentline is a phone service for parents and carers of children from birth to 18 years old. They offer free, confidential, and anonymous counseling and support on parenting issues. The number for Parentline differs per state. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see which number to call if you're interested.
Please feel free to keep us updated on your journey with your child. Things can, and often do, get better.
04-08-2022 12:05 PM
04-08-2022 10:54 PM
Hello @Brunswickmum thanks for sharing your story with us here on the forums. It’s really lovely to see the support and advice that you have provided to other community members here. I am sorry to hear about what you and your son have been going through. It sounds like you care a lot about your son and are supportive of his needs. It is unfortunate to hear about your son’s experiences with health care services and that you are worried for him and his health after he turns 18. You spoke about having someone to vent to or work through with, which is a really helpful strategy. Do you have someone that you have found has helped you through things? Do you have any professional supports around you at the moment that are helping you?
05-09-2022 06:12 AM
05-09-2022 02:21 PM
Hi @Cargo2009 ,
So sorry to hear that you're going through similar struggles with your daughter. Can I ask how old she is? It's great that you're going to have a chat with the school- has your daughter seen the school counsellor at all? They can be a really useful person to connect with if you haven't already. How's your daughter finding school socially?
We've also got some useful resources on school refusal , if you're interested in having a read. Keep us posted with how you go with the school, I hope that they're able to give you both some support and assistance