eheadspace Group Chat
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Group Chat
School reluctance and school refusal
March 2nd 2017 @ 12am AEDT
Many parents and other adults supporting young people have concerns about a young person who is reluctant to attend school or refusing to attend school and are unsure how to help them.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:11 pm
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
eheadspaceMich: Hi everyone and welcome to our Group Chat session today for parents and other adults supporting young people!
Today we hope we can offer you the chance to ask questions, share with each other helpful ideas and generally find some more support for yourselves in assisting young people you care about.
We’ll respond to your questions and add some comments and resources as well.
We have a range of mental health professionals in our session today. My name is Mich and I am a family therapist, and we have, Kristal, Belinda, Clare, and Clair, who are all mental health clinicians ready to respond to your questions today. Together we will be reading and answering your questions. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for us to respond – so please hang in there. We try to give your questions some thought and hopefully make our responses useful to you.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
eheadspaceMich: We have Hannah, who is a member of our national youth reference group also joining us today. Welcome and thanks for joining us, Hannah!
A couple of things before you start chatting:
• There are no silly questions!
• When you submit your question it won’t appear straight away
• Our team will be busy reading and preparing a response to your question before it is posted live – we appreciate your patience
• If we can’t publish anything we’ll let you know
• It also helps if you use a first name so that if you have a follow up question we know who we’re talking to. Also, if you don’t use a name all your responses come in from ‘guest’ so that can be quite confusing for us!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
eheadspaceMich: And importantly ****There can be quite a bit to read in our sessions, but don’t worry if you miss some content while we’re ‘live’ as it is available to read on our website after the day at this page: https://www.eheadspace.org.au/get-help/past-live-info-sessions/
Thanks in advance to everyone participating : )
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
Clair eheadspace: Hi everyone and welcome to our school refusal chat. My name is Clair.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
eheadspaceMich: While we're working on your questions we'll post some information about school refusal to start things going
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
eheadspaceMich: What is School Refusal?
School refusal is characterized by a young person’s difficulty attending school as a result of emotional distress, often in the form of anxiety. Often these young people will feel sick or be miserable in the mornings. They want to stay at home rather than go out and do other things. Anxiety is generally one key factor in school refusal.
School refusal is different from truancy. Truants usually skip school to pursue alternative enjoyable activities and parents are often unaware. Parents of school refusing youths are aware of the absence and despite efforts to enforce attendance, are often unable to do so.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Looking forward to our chat today!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:14 pm
eheadspaceMich: Hi Hannah and welcome : )
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:15 pm
Comment From Guest
Hi, I'm Shelagh, the headspace Hobart Community Health Educator, and I'm also a parent. I've had 2 go through high school, and have got 3 to go.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:15 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hey Shelagh :) Thanks for joining us today!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:15 pm
eheadspaceMich: What is anxiety?
Anxiety can be experienced and expressed in a range of ways. These experiences can include physical sensations (such as having a racing heart or rapid breathing, dry mouth, feeling restless, getting sweaty or dizzy), changes in how we think (such as having thoughts of worry or fear), prominent emotions of fear or feelings of being scared, as well as experiencing changes in our behaviours (such as avoiding situations that trigger anxiety).
Anxiety symptoms and signs can be intense and distressing and it is common for anyone experiencing anxiety to wish to avoid those feelings. However the more we avoid developing skills and strategies to manage anxiety as it arises, the more likely our anxious reactions will continue and increase.
This link gives some information on anxiety that may be helpful for you: https://headspace.org.au/young-people/understanding-anxiety-for-young-people/
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:16 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Shelagh! Hope you enjoy our chat today :)
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:16 pm
eheadspaceMich: Hi Hannah
have you got any comments about things that helped you go to school and manage it well?
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:16 pm
eheadspaceMich: Here are some tips for family and friends concerned about possible school refusal
• School refusal is often complex. It can involve factors relating to the young person, their family, as well as the school environment.
• It is important to obtain a face to face assessment with the whole family wherever possible.
• It is important to act quickly to prevent some behaviours becoming longer term habits.
• It is reasonable to ask a service what an assessment or treatment might involve.
• Anxiety is a very common challenge and there are a range of effective treatments.
• Most treatment for anxiety will involve learning new skills such as breathing techniques, new thinking habits and carefully planned exposure to anxiety provoking situations.
• As young people who school refuse can have trouble shifting habits and developing confidence in new strategies, it is important that you support and encourage them in using the anxiety management skills they learn in treatment.
• You can assist your young person in a significant way by expanding your own strategies to manage anxiety, modelling for your young person that you are willing to seek help.
• Modelling effective communication and problem solving at home may also assist in improving outcomes for young people with these kinds of challenges.
• It is important to have an assessment by a skilled mental health service with experience in school refusal before considering alternative arrangements like distance education.
• Avoid upset, angry, punitive responses – and as much as possible work on calm, clear, firm responses to your young person.
• As much as possible encourage your young person to engage in normal life experiences and challenges. Focus on their abilities, strengths & positive engagement with life.
• Many parents and adult supports of young people are naturally concerned about legal requirements to attend school up to a certain age. While this is important, it can be unhelpful to focus on this legal requirement to the exclusion of other factors, such as the general importance of learning, preparing for work and life.
• Your own self care is vital. As much as you are able, put into place your own stress busting and anxiety lowering habits, and keep in touch with supportive family, friends and services.
• It can be confusing if you are getting different suggestions about how to handle the situation. If this is the case, we encourage you to talk further with your young person’s professional, and you are also welcome to recontact eheadspace.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:17 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Something that helped me with school was having a level of control over my learning. It was much easier for me to go to school once I was able to choose my subjects. I also eventually learned that if I didn't attend that I wouldn't be able to gain knowledge about things that I really wanted to know about. There was also the social element which is important to a lot of young people.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:17 pm
Comment From Shar
I used to work at headspace as a clinician a few years ago and am in private practice now. My friends teenage son is currently experiencing this issue and is only able to get to school 1 or 2 days a week so I am sitting in for her as she is overseas currently.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:17 pm
Clare eheadspace: Thanks for joining us Shar :)
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:18 pm
Comment From Guest
Hi,
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:18 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Shar, That sounds really tricky and awesome you are sitting in for your friend, it sounds like this young person already has a lot of support around them which is great.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:18 pm
Comment From Michelle
My daughter has been anxious about school since she was in Prep. It was always hard for me to leave her at school and now that she is in Year 7 it’s getting harder. What can I do?
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:18 pm
Clare eheadspace: Sorry to hear this and I can imagine it’s hard for both you and your daughter. How did you help your daughter when she was in Prep and following years? What kinds of things did you find that helped her feel more able to go to school when she was younger? Obviously there are different issues at different ages, but it can be worth learning from any previous successes. Anxiety and the different thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations it generates is often the key thing for young people who are reluctant to go to school. Consider getting help outside school as she might not want to talk to someone in school. However the school will most likely also need to learn ways to help her when she does get there, so it’s probably important to plan some communication between yourself, any professional involved and the school. How does the day go for your daughter once she is at school? This can be one of the key points so I encourage you to talk to her teachers soon to get as full a picture as possible.
In the meantime, as a way of supporting you and your daughter while you get more help organised, is there someone else who could take your daughter to school? It could be useful to see how this goes, as for many young people the hardest person to say goodbye to in the morning is their parent (and most often their mother). If someone else could take her to school such as an adult she trusts or a friend. It could be helpful to have this happening regularly so that it’s a reliable plan, while she’s getting back into a routine. This could help a lot to lessen stress about the start of the school day. These are a couple of beginning ideas but I encourage you to check out the links we will be posting throughout the session today and feel free to contact us directly if you would like to talk further at eheadspace.org.au/eheadspace
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:21 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hey Michelle, that sounds really difficult! I think tackling the anxiety with a treatment that works for her would be a good start. And then also trying to examine if there are any other issues that might be stopping her from attending school - such as bullying or difficulties with certain teachers. Maybe also see if there are other activities at school she could be involved in such as a sport or the school musical that might make the whole idea of school more appealing
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:21 pm
Comment From Kylie
I have a 14 year old daughter who has always been quiet and reserved - but not shy. We've had some bullying issues since her first year of high school which she hid from me for months. This escalated into school refusal, but the school were very supportive and stepped up and helped her feel more comfortable to return. 2 years later she's had a falling out with some girlfriends who she was very close with and is now refusing again to attend school. She's feeling physically sick and unable to go. The school are trying to be supportive again, but the next step is for her to actually go and this is proving to be too hard. We've done a lot of talking, lots of understanding and role modeling about what going back would look like. She's refusing counselling and even online help. We've discussed moving to a new school but I'm not sure this is the right role modeling. I'm just not sure what to do next!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:21 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hi Kylie, I’m so sorry to hear that your daughter is struggling like this. This age can be difficult enough for them, but when anxiety is added in it just makes it that much harder. It sounds as though you’re doing everything right and as though you are being wonderfully supportive of her – that’s exactly what she needs. One of the worst things though for your daughter is to avoid school. The more she avoids it, the harder it will be to go back, mainly because she will really start to feel disconnected from the other kids, the teachers, and the routine in general. Avoidance feels good in the short term, but it actually sends anxiety through the roof. Having said that, I know how difficult it can be to get a 14 year old to do something that they’ve decided not to do.
It’s important that your daughter understands why she’s feeling like she’s feeling. The reason she’s feeling sick is because of her anxiety. One of the things that will help her is if she can understand exactly why her anxiety feels the way it does. It will help her to stop getting ‘anxious about the anxiety’. Anxiety feels awful and it’s that physical feeling of anxiety that tends to take over from the feared thing. Here is an article that explains it: https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-in-kids/ . If you can explain this to her and let her know why it’s happening it will help her to push through it. The language is written maybe for younger kids but the gist of it is relevant for everyone – just relay it to her in a language that will feel right for her, otherwise let her read it but explain that even though it’s written for younger kids, the concept is relevant for everyone, including adults and adolescents.
If she’s missing school, it would be really important for her to get some sort of counselling support. She might prefer to go to a counsellor outside of school, to avoid the other kids knowing about it. In the meantime, here are some things that will help her to manage it:
. Anxiety: Ways to Feel Better Without Medication https://www.heysigmund.com/anxiety-without-medication/
. Managing Anxiety: 8 Proven Ways. https://www.heysigmund.com/managing-anxiety/
The most important thing is doing whatever it takes to get your daughter back to school because the longer she avoids it, the more she will feel as though avoidance is the only option for her. I understand how difficult this is because the avoidance isn’t something your daughter is doing to be defiant – I really get that. Everything in her is telling her that she can’t cope with going to school, but not going to school is making this belief even stronger. Talk to her about how she feels about going to a different school – I would give her the option: this school or another school but it has to be one of them. Give yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get her to school, and don’t feel as though you’re being mean by making her go. I really understand how difficult this is though, but if you can put some conditions down, that might be helpful, such as if she’s going to stay home, she needs to see a counsellor and do schoolwork at home during the day for example. Also get her involved in the solution by asking her what she needs to feel better about going to school.
It sounds like you’re doing what you need to be doing and it’s great that the school is helping with strategies. Having them on side and knowing that they understand the issue is really important. It also sounds as though you’re being a wonderful support for your daughter, which is exactly what she needs. Just keep in mind that if her avoidance keeps going that there will come to be a difference between supporting the person and supporting the pathology. The difference can be a really difficult one to identify, but the main thing to remember is that the easier it is for her to avoid school, the more control her anxiety will have over her.
I know how difficult this is and I know how awful it must be watching her struggle. Keep doing what you’re doing with the school and with her towards getting her there, and if you’re able to get her to see a counsellor, that would be really helpful for her. Keep going, and know that you’re doing a really good job.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:21 pm
Comment From Lynette
Our son has always done really well at school, but this year he is avoiding school as much as possible. We work full time so we’re quite often on our way to work early and we didn’t know he was staying home until the school let us know last week that he was not turning up. He’s just staying home on the computer I think, and won’t talk to us about anything.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:21 pm
Comment From Shar
Yes the family is great. It's great we have access to read through the responses again later
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:21 pm
Clare eheadspace: Thanks for your message Lynette and I hope we can assist you. It sounds like something might have changed for your son recently and it’s good that the school has let you know about that. Does the school have any idea what has happened to change things? Are they, or you, checking if bullying is happening in school or online? Or are there issues with your son learning and he’s struggling to know how to deal with this? Sometimes relationships with teachers can have an impact in a new year. You might be able to gently explore with your son some of these things but also perhaps with some key staff at the school too.
It’s hard when you have work commitments, but given the big change for your son, it might be important to plan some time to be more available while you explore what’s happening and what is needed. Making time to relax with your son is probably also worth planning. Both to keep your relationship as positive as possible, and also to allow time to talk if he needs to. Many young people (and this applies to adults too!) will be reluctant to share something significant if there isn’t much time. Allowing him that space, focussing on relaxing and stress busting activities might all be helpful too.
Keep in mind that our suggestions might be different depending on your son’s age and abilities of course.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:21 pm
eheadspaceMich: Hi everyone, we're working on your questions still, so while you're waiting for a response, I'll post some more tips.
Later in the session we'll post some links and resources too
Tips – early action on your part may make a difference
If you are just starting to have concerns about your young person’s school attendance and their concerns or worries about school, you may be able to help them in a number of ways:
• Talk to your young person about their worries about attending school and work on ways to confront their anxieties and settle their feelings
• Take your young person to the doctor to address any illnesses that might be impacting on school attendance and contributing to school refusal
• Plan with your young person how to manage the beginning of the school day, school term and school year (depending on what most concerns them).
• Give them a plan that includes a range of good simple strategies to try, such as ….practicising breathing slowly to calm themselves, using an app like smiling mind, keeping up the exercise, preparing for social situations with some conversation starters, having a plan to follow if needed,
• Make being home ‘boring’ so that there will be fewer pleasures and rewards for your young person in staying home. Focus on doing homework rather than lots of screen time and activity, for example.
• Wherever possible, develop a collaborative plan with your young person’s school. A clear and understood plan between the young person, parents, schools and mental health services can be important in improving outcomes.
• Inform the school of any difficulties and enlist their support as much as possible to help your young person return to school or keep attending regularly.
• Seek support for yourself and get advice about managing any stresses or worries.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:22 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Kylie, I think considering a different school is an absolutely viable option. I think it's important as well to ensure that she has other things in her life outside of school that she enjoys. I went through something similar when I was at school (I'm now 22) and enjoying things outside of school made going easier. Even really small things that could break up the monotony of her day might be useful - I used to enjoy school more if I knew I'd made an awesome lunch to enjoy! Sounds silly but school is pretty boring and mundane for a lot of people and breaking that can be really useful.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:22 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Lynette, Sorry this is going on, that sounds really difficult. Perhaps there is another person he might be able to speak to about this issue? Sometimes a bit of distance cn make it easier for a young person to open up so maybe he could speak to another relative, a counsellor or a doctor or a family friend about this issue.
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22nd Aug, 2:22 pm
Comment From Brendan
We are desperate for help. We have been struggling to get our son to school all year and have tried to get help from the school without much success. I’m sure he’s being bullied but the teachers we’ve spoken to seem to be too busy to investigate.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:22 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hey Brendan, It sounds very frustrating and difficult for you at the moment and I hope we can help. I’m not sure how old your son is and that can make a difference to our recommendations, so keep that in mind. Have you been able to talk to your son at all and get any idea from him about what is happening? Sometimes it can help to mention a few issues and ask a young person to respond – i.e. ‘are you being bullied? ‘Are you struggling with the school work?’ ‘Is something else bothering you?’
Of course it shouldn’t happen, but sometimes it is the adults or teachers who are bullying or handling situations in unhelpful ways. Could you gently check if there is a problem, who is the source of the problem? In many cases people are reluctant to talk if they are being bullied. They worry that telling someone will make it worse (which it can do) and they can’t imagine how someone can help at times. If this is the case it might help your son to know that getting help to tackle this can mean other people also get help. Bullies are likely to be targeting more than one person, or at least other people witnessing the bullying might be feeling unsafe too.
We know that schools vary a great deal and some do much better with bullying than others. Have you spoken to the principal, year level coordinator or school counsellor? Sometimes it needs a leader with some authority to get things moving, so I encourage you to talk to the most senior person you can.
If you don’t make progress soon you might consider contacting the relevant regional office or school association. The police can become involved if there is serious bullying too. Unfortunately sometimes moving schools becomes the next option, though I encourage you to get some face to face help for your son before making any major decisions like these. Although bullying is not the fault of the person being bullied, there are ways to help someone handle situations differently, manage their feelings better and this could be very important for your son.
And lastly, while it’s really important to investigate any possible bullying, keep in mind that there may be other things affecting your son. When you explore this try to keep alert to other issues as well and ask open questions as much as possible and be present with an open and curious attitude.
This conversation may need to take place over a number of smaller chats, and just a general tip - tricky conversations like this often end up best if you chat in the car. Sitting side by side, rather than having to have eye contact, and the psychological advantage of "getting to a destination" seems to really help these types of conversations!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:22 pm
eheadspaceMich: It's important for all of us to keep engaging in our 'learning zone' or 'stretch zone' those areas which we might feel a little uncomfortable in, but which with practice can become easier
For many of us we can tend to want to retreat, which means our comfort zone gets smaller and smaller
It's a simple diagram below which might help explain this...
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:22 pm
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:23 pm
eheadspaceMich: In a similar way 'putting things off' can just make the next step harder. This cartoon could apply to so many other things, so many other tasks or deadlines
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:23 pm
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:23 pm
Comment From Susan
Can you suggest some healthy incentives i can use to get my 12 year old son to go to school? I don't want to encourage more xbox!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:23 pm
Clair eheadspace: Hi Susan and welcome.
Thanks for your question… I’m sure you’re not the only parent who’s wondering how to better motivate their child to get to school.
Here are a few things that you may wish to think about…
- Are there any particular reasons why your son is struggling to get to school? Are there any academic, mental health or social concerns that you need to consider. Gathering some background information may be helpful
- Encourage self-motivation and a solid conversation about his rights and responsibilities as a young person, but try not to focus on grades, rules and regulations. This is a time to focus on relationship building.
- Think about things that would provide your son with real life motivation. Rather than focusing on school per se. Perhaps consider his other intrinsic motivators. Considering things that motivate him outside of school, could provide a good starting point.
- Encourage your son to consider school as his community and explore the extra-curricular options that are available to him. He may not have found his niche yet.
- Chat with parents of your sons friends about what they find helpful in motivating their children. Your parenting community is a wonderful resource.
- Work on a weekly planner with your son. Make sure it includes school tasks, but plenty of time for extra-curricular, relaxation, family time and exercise. Focus on balance.
- If you still feel stuck, make time to chat with the school counsellor. They may be able to offer some more insight into your sons feelings and provide some age appropriate ideas.
Participant
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22nd Aug, 2:23 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Brendan, that is truly awful, I'm so sorry this is happening. I think it's really important right now that your son has a lot of support around him and has things outside of school that he can enjoy whether thats a musical instrument or you taking a zumba class together or anything that might be fun for him. It's a shame the teachers are not helping, it could be worth speaking to other schools about this and speaking to him about whether he may want to change schools. Good luck!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:23 pm
eheadspaceMich: Thanks so much for your comments, Hannah. It's great to hear from your perspective and those ideas sound great
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:23 pm
Participant
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22nd Aug, 2:24 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Susan! Great question! A fun after school activity could be a great incentive such as the two of you doing a gym class together or getting ice cream or something else enjoyable! I mentioned earlier that I really enjoyed school a lot more whenever the monotony of the day was broken - for me this was a great lunch! Hope this helps!
Participant
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22nd Aug, 2:24 pm
Comment From Caroline
I’m so frustrated! Every morning my step son and I are in a battle about going to school. He’s in year 9 and his father works away so often I’m left to organise everything. I know I shouldn’t show my frustration but he is so hard to shift and we’re getting angry at each other most mornings now.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:24 pm
Clare eheadspace: It’s great you decided to reach out for some help with this. It sounds hard for both of you. Does his father realise how difficult things are getting? If his father is at home, do things work any easier? (it can be easy to assume this would be the case, but it isn’t always!)
Have you contacted the school for some help with this situation? There are at least two factors apart from the young person themselves and those are the home and the school. The school may be able to: encourage him to attend, check if there is any issue at school that needs attention, help arrange peers to keep in touch etc.
When your step son does get to school, how are things going for him? Keep in mind that for some people (and this can be especially true of young men ) anxiety and depression can be expressed through anger or irritability, so it’s possible to misunderstand what’s going on if we only focus on the anger and conflict.
Is he having a problem with sleeping so that he’s tired in the morning, or he is eating properly? In some cases it is worth having a medical check up to eliminate medical issues relating to tiredness. However if those don’t prove relevant it is likely to be more about finding some supports for yourself, finding ways to make the mornings less a contest of who is in charge between you two and turning the focus a little on to what is going on inside him, at school or otherwise that is making school attendance a battle.
Try to keep calm yourself and try to find times to talk with your step son when there is little pressure or you’re not already late as much as possible. It might be helpful to consider support for both you and your partner or family mediation or family therapy – all of which work with the whole family (in different ways) to handle things differently and work together more effectively. Developing a collaborative plan for school mornings that your step son can contribute, but also involves discussion with the school and any professionals and ways to help your step son take a little more responsibility for how the mornings go could be really important here. Again, if your step son is experiencing anxiety that’s hard to express this could make a big difference to him.
Look after yourself and as much as you can, plan some relaxing and fun things to give you and your step son some time out from the battle and allow some cooling down time while you work on what else is needed.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:24 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Sorry for all my food related answers, I think I might be hungry.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:24 pm
eheadspaceMich: it is lunch time, isn't it : )
Participant
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22nd Aug, 2:24 pm
Comment From Jo
Hi I'm Jo, my 16 year old daughter feels so exhausted from Anxiety she can't/ won't get out of bed some mornings and constantly seeks my approval for her to stay home I trying to be supportive of how she is feeling but it also stresses her that she gets behind with her school work. I feel like it is a never ending cycle of anxiety whichever way we go. Do you have any ideas? Many thanks
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:25 pm
BelindaeHeadspace: Hey Jo,
Thanks for your question and I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is having such a difficult time with her anxiety. The experience of anxiety can certainly be both physically and emotionally exhausting.
When anxiety has been experienced in an ongoing way for some time, learning ways to break that anxiety cycle can be difficult to do alone. (Here’s a link on how anxiety tends to work in vicious cycle, which might be helpful for you and your daughter - http://www.cci.health.wa.go...)
Is your daughter willing to seek professional support, Jo? Ongoing anxiety can also impact on our mood, as well an energy levels and motivation. It sounds like this is the experience for your daughter. I’d encourage you to support your daughter in getting linked in with a mental health professional and/or school counsellor to learn strategies for addressing her anxiety. In the meantime, helping her to feel like her days are more predictable may help her to feel that they are more manageable. Try to encourage your daughter to balance out her school work commitments with enjoyable and relaxing activities in her day. It can be exhausting for parents too, in supporting their young people with their anxiety! So try to take care of yourself as well. Best of luck!
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:25 pm
Comment From Christina
I have been sick and my 14 year old daughter has been looking after me. Now that I’m improving it’s becoming harder to get her back to school. She’s been so caring and lovely and it’s really hard to be insistent with her at the moment, but she’s missing a lot of school.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:25 pm
Clair eheadspace: Thank you for your comment. It’s lovely that your daughter has been so caring of you and great to hear you’re improving now!
Like many of us, when we have time away from work or study, it can be tempting to stay in our comfort zone. Your daughter has got used to being home so it might feel a big step to her to go back to school.
She may also still have concerns about you and how you will manage if she does return. I would encourage you to try to set up some other supports for yourself and let her know about those; let her know you have appreciated her care (which I imagine you have already done) but that the best way to help you now you’re recovering is to get on with her schooling and life.
Plan some special times with her outside school hours if you can; give her the ‘comfort, stretch, danger zone’ picture and explain a little how it works; talk to the school about how they can support her to return to school and consider getting some help with whatever is an issue for her – often it’s anxiety or worries about learning, or worries about how to explain absences and re-connect with other students, or bullying, for a few examples.
Best wishes!
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:26 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Caroline, that is so hard and sounds really horrible for both of you. I would suggest talking to a professional about this - a doctor or mental health therapist, and then also speaking to the school and asking for their support. Maybe also check in with him about how other things in his life are going, find out if he might be being bullied (or get another relative/family friend/someone he can speak to comfortably) about this. Hope this helps!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:26 pm
Clare eheadspace:
Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses Hannah.. It’s really great to get the unique perspective of a young person in this discussion of a very complex issue 
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:26 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Jo, I can relate to this situation enormously! And it can be hard to find that balance to know what will be best for her. Speak to her about what she would do if she stayed home and why that would be better and try to break it down into smaller issues then combat each of them. I would also speak to the school about this and seek help from a GP and make sure she is getting treatment for her mental health issues that works well for her. Good luck!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:26 pm
eheadspaceMich: School: How the school may be able to help.
• Be aware of the great variety of schools in terms of mental health knowledge, resources in terms of staff time, etc.
• It can be hard at the time things are not going well, but as much as possible, developing a partnership between yourself and the school could be really important. Sometimes there are understandable barriers, such as staff not having much time, or not acknowledging your efforts, but it's worth trying to calmly persist if you can.
• Wherever possible build relationships with key staff such as coordinators, home group teachers and also teachers that your young person connects with well
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:26 pm
eheadspaceMich: Building a relationship with your young person’s school
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:26 pm
Comment From Thanks
My child always complains of feel sick before school - this is at least 3-4 days each week. She does go to school, but I'm finding it hard to understand this constant nervous sickness. We've visited the doctor a few times and there doesn't seem to be anything to worry about. I'm sure it's nervousness, but I'm not sure how to explain this, or even how to fully understand it myself.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:27 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hi there - this is a great question! A lot of people understand that anxiety and nerves often have a physical impact on the body, the most common one is feeling an upset tummy (or butterflies) but there are a host of other ways that this can present in our body too.
The best way for me to understand this, and to explain to others is something along these lines.
Anxiety exists as a protective measure - it was a response that helped early man to survive. If there's a threat our brain responds by providing us with enough fuel to get through that threat - oxygen, adrenaline and hormones kick in to make you strong, fast and powerful. These are the same things that help people do amazing feats during a critical incident (have you heard of mothers lifting cars off their children?)
These responses are caused by the back of our brain - the amygdala.
At times our brain can be over protective, and it can be hard for it to tell the difference between a perceived threat and a real threat. So when your daughter is feeling anxious about school, her brain is reading this as a threat and responding as it should.
Unfortunately if we're not using up those chemicals they can cause other symptoms in our body - like feeling breathless, having a racing heart, feeling dizzy or wobbly, nausea and suddenly feeling really emotional.
This is a great link that explains more about these physical responses and has some great strategies you can work through with your daughter :) http://www.heysigmund.com/how-to-deal-with-school-anxiety-no-more-distressing-goodbyes/
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:28 pm
eheadspaceMich: CatholicCare school refusal support http://www.ccam.org.au/page/37/school-refusal-support Melbourne, Geelong, Gippsland. In some areas they may be called Cool2b@school
Some headspace centres offer programs for school refusing young people and some CAMHS services also. Check with your local services
Services and resources from monash psychiatry:
Private services
A GP can make a referral under the Better Mental Health Plan for you to access a rebate for services. Talk to your GP or local headspace centre about private psychologists or social workers who have expertise in your area.
If you are going to explore this option, it’s a good idea to check with the professional you have been recommended to see. It is usually important for someone to be able to meet with the whole family as well as individually with the young person and to assist the school in some form, so knowing that the person you are going to see can offer that range of services is important.
Alternate schooling options
These vary around the country. Contact your education department regional office, or local school or mental health provider for suggestions.
Be aware that not all schools are offering the same programs or helping young people with the same issues and do your research. Also, moving schools is not always recommended - check with your professional about this.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:28 pm
eheadspaceMich: We'll post some info about services.
It's not always easy to find the services in your area and they can vary around the country
Some CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) or ELMHS (Early in Life Mental Health Service) offer school refusal services. Check in your local area
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:28 pm
eheadspaceMich: Thanks for your comments and questions and there is still time for some more!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:28 pm
eheadspaceMich: While we're responding I'll post some links to anxiety, stress and school refusal topics.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:31 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hey There! I think it would be a great idea to get your child who feels sick 3-4 days a week to get some treatment for her nervousness. It may seem like nothing to worry about, but if it's getting in the way of her regular activities you are right to be concerned. This may be in the form of talking therapy, medication, mindfulness or other techniques, but speak to a doctor (maybe try a different doctor if the last one wasn't helpful) and say you want ot be more proactive about this issue. Good luck!
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:31 pm
Comment From Dale
My grade 6 daughter (she’s 12 next month) has a lot of stomach aches and headaches. We’ve been to the doctor and they can’t find anything wrong. She’s used to getting out of going to school quite often and staying home and I’m worried about how we’ll manage when she starts secondary school next year.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:31 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hey Dale - you might find the response I made to "Thanks" helpful to check out too :)
It’s a good time to start preparing for secondary school and you have almost a whole year so I hope in that time you can see some progress for your daughter.
If you have had your daughter’s symptoms checked and they can’t find physical causes it is very likely she is experiencing the effects of anxiety. Many people (including adults!) misunderstand this.
Anxiety can affect our thoughts, feelings and our bodily sensations – sometimes quite severely. The fact that anxiety can cause them does not make them ‘not real’ – it’s more that the way to tackle them is different from if they are a physical cause like a stomach ulcer. Your daughter might be helped by having some extra support with her worries and anxiety and I suggest you either find a counsellor the school can link her with who visits the school, or someone recommended who works with adolescents nearby. But you can help her too by letting her know that anxiety is common…we all struggle with it at different times and in different ways; that there are lots of things that can help; that avoiding things we are worried about actually makes it worse; that you’re happy to support her and help her; by sharing with her some useful things you have found that can help with anxiety and stress; by making sure you have fun and relaxing times together and allow her time to talk, etc.
And also, it’s important to check how things are going for your daughter. She may be feeling anxious because she is anticipating difficulties but she may also be struggling with issues that you and the school are not aware of. It’s worth asking the school to do some careful checking – learning issues, peer difficulties, teacher or family problems can all have big effects. If there is something difficult happening for your family it may be hard for your daughter to directly express how it is effecting her, so keep this in mind too.
You might also check out this site. www.smilingmind.com.au There is a free meditation app with different material for different age groups on this sit.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:31 pm
Stress and ways of handling things
Calm breathing https://www.betterhealth.vi...
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:31 pm
Comment From Brian
I used to find school pretty hard myself and I’m worried my son will have the same experience. He’s in year 7 and I know he is already finding the adjustment a bit difficult. How can I help him have a better start than I did?
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:31 pm
Clair eheadspace: Hey Brian.
It’s really good to hear that you’re thinking ahead and looking for ways to help your son. Being willing to reflect on your own experience can be really helpful, though it also depends on whether you found helpful ways to handle things, how alike your son is to you etc.
It’s natural for parents to worry about their children and it shows your concern and thoughtfulness. However, developing skills to handle worry, learning to cope with new challenges, and instilling some optimism that challenges are normal life hurdles that can be managed, are important examples to set. Encourage your son to be open and honest about how he is managing the transition, and remind him that that there is lots of emotional and academic support available at school.
Young people tend to sense if we have confidence or are unsure how they will go, so it may be helpful for you to find someone you can talk to about your worries.... it could be a trusted friend, the wellbeing person at school, or maybe a counsellor in the community. If you have some support yourself, you may feel more confident in your approach to supporting your son, and be better able to provide him with emotional support, strategies for managing school life and help your son develop his ability to share the load if he has worries.
A great way to encourage these conversations, is to try to plan fun and positive times with your son for after school. This will help build your relationship as well as provide an incentive and something to look forward to.... making sure not all your interactions are about the worries or concerns or what is not going well.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:34 pm
eheadspaceMich: And here are some links specifically on school refusal
Truancy and school refusal – from raising children. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/truancy_teenagers.html/context/1131
And this link is to a previous group chat session we ran on bullying - in case bullying is one of the issues affecting your young person's willingness to go to school
• Bullying group chat link and resources http://www.coveritlive.com/...
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:34 pm
Comment From Jo
Yes thank you we are linked in with health professionals, the school is great and everyone is trying to find the reason for her extreme fatigue which seems to be depressive symptoms from living with high anxiety for many years I will read your link and practice self care but it SO distressing for families living with children with mental health problems. I feel so powerless at times. This forum is very helpful
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:34 pm
BelindaeHeadspace: Thanks for your response, Jo.
We absolutely appreciate the enormous effort on the behalf of families supporting young people who are facing complex experiences of anxiety, depression, and school refusal…. Good on you for all your efforts in linking in with professional supports and maintaining contact with the school.
It can feel so disheartening to see our children with these struggles. Continue to draw strength from wherever you can to navigate this really tricky period in yours/your daughter’s lives. And know that your unconditional support and love is the best thing that you, as a parent, can provide. Take care, Belinda.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:34 pm
What days or times would you prefer to have our future group chats for adults supporting young people to run?
The current day and time
( 100% )
A weeknight evening
( 0% )
A weekend afternoon
( 0% )
A different week day but same time
( 0% )
unsure
( 0% )
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:36 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Dale, I agree with Kristal that it sounds like she might be experiencing some anxiety. There are a number of different treatments for anxiety, I would recommend talking therapy first and see if that helps. I'm also a big advocate of exercising with your child! So give that a go too and it will at least be a fun healthy, bonding activity for you both.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:36 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Christina, I'm glad to hear that you're improving, that is great news. And so lovely that your daughter has been able to care for you. I did the same when I was about her age and my mum was unwell and found it really hard to go to school as well. I think ensuring there are fun activities you can both do together that don't involve her looking after you will help to normalise the situation again. And then getting into a more regular routine, in baby steps, may help as well. It's going to be an adjustment for you both so allow yourselves both some self care and time to adjust. Good luck x
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:36 pm
eheadspaceMich: And here are some programs that are either online or can be offered in schools or other settings to help with anxiety in the main
Brave online program http://www.brave-online.com/
The resourceful adolescent program http://www.rap.qut.edu.au/
Parent program connected to the above one http://www.rap.qut.edu.au/programs/rap-p.jsp
The friends program – resilience programs for life https://www.friendsresilience.org/
Adult resilience program for young people 16-18+ http://www.friendsresilience.org/adult-resilience-ages-16-18/
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:39 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Hi Brian! It's awesome you're already looking at how best to support your child. I think that's great. I think making sure you are in contact with the school about how he is going will make you both feel more confident about potential issues. Making sure that there are things at school he enjoys such as extra curricular sport or art may also help him to feel better about school as a whole. All the best!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:39 pm
eheadspaceMich: This is a link to a video on school refusal. It's about primary school school refusal but still might be relevant
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:40 pm
Comment From Shar
Im finding one of the difficult things to deal with in this area (as a Mental Health Clinician) is when some of the students that are going through school refusal finally do get to school and then they vomit...the schools often send them straight home (as this is their policy).I wonder if some would be better off staying in sick bay for a while, doing some soothing activities and deep breathing and once feeling calmer (if they can reach this) actually head back to class over being sent home. If it doesn't look like its a 'tummy bug' that could be contagious and they can be helped to be calmed I think its a great shame to send them home when it has been such a big step to get them there. I know this is probably a resource issue with lack of staff to sit with the student or monitor them as well. Its a trick one!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:40 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Hey Shar - that's a great point. This is where it's really important for schools, families and mental health clinicians (if they're involved) to be communicating openly with each other. It would be important for everyone to know of any plans to "get to school" and the challenges this involves. For the school to be aware of the difficulty, and how this can present in each young person differently.
Some may have nausea or vomiting - and you're right, this doesn't necessarily mean they are physically unwell or need to go home.
If this does happen unfortunately the school usually has a policy that the young person should be sent home, but often the school can be flexible about this if they're aware that this is a symptom of anxiety rather than physical illness.
This means that the school should be supported/encouraged to work with the family and mental health team to work out a plan for managing this at school. What is a helpful response? How will they differentiate between anxiety and physical illness? Can they take a temperature, speak with the family to discuss any other symptoms and whether they were present?
Communication is key here - and it can be tricky to get a good plan in place, but once it is set up it's often the most helpful thing we can do for a young person and their family.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:40 pm
eheadspaceMich: And here are some books for families that might be helpful
Aisbett, B (various) Living with It book series (books on anxiety and panic attacks). Harper Collins Publishers.
Kearney, C (2007) Getting Your Child to Say "Yes" to School. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rapee, R, Spence, S, Wignall, A and Cobham, V (2008) Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step by Step Guide for Parents (2nd Edition). Oakland, California: New Harbinger.
Wever, C (1994) The School Wobblies. Sydney: Shrink Rap Press.
And some phone lines and online support
• eheadspace www.eheadspace.org.au or 1800 650 890
• Parent Line – search for parentline in your state
• Carers – the carers gateway https://www.carergateway.gov.au/
• Kids Help Line (24hr service) - 1800 551 800 https://kidshelpline.com.au/
• Lifeline (24hr service) - 13 11 14 https://www.lifeline.org.au/
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:40 pm
eheadspaceMich: We're still working on a couple of your questions, but while we're doing that it would be great if you could respond to this next poll...it will help us tailor these sessions to be most use to you
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:40 pm
What has been the most useful part of our session today for you?
Hearing from other parents
( 0% )
hearing from the youth perspective
( 0% )
responses to questions
( 20% )
links, resources and services
( 0% )
all of the above
( 80% )
I haven't found the session helpful today
( 0% )
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:41 pm
Comment From Shar
the resources being posted are really great, thanks
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:41 pm
eheadspaceMich: And one more resource...most education departments should have some material on 'every day counts' or 'it's not ok to be away'
here are some links from Vic and QLD but you can search in your state too. Sorry we haven't got more of these links for you today from all the states!!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:42 pm
Clare eheadspace: You are most welcome Shar- thank you for being part of the discussion today, it's been great to have you on board :)
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:42 pm
eheadspaceMich: and another self care graphic for you....don't forget yourself in the equation!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:42 pm
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:42 pm
Comment From Leia
Hi everyone. I have a really long back story about my 15 year old son that I will try to condense. Basically, school has been an issue for many years and has now progressed to a complete refusal of mainstream schooling. My son is smart and capable but refuses to participate in school even when he attended. When he was 11yo he was diagnosed with Aspergers. It was his behaviour and defiance that led us to his diagnosis. We haven't been able to define what it is about school that he has a problem with, we've made many guesses including moving to a smaller school incase it was the overwhelming amount of students. The only consistent thing we know is that if he doesn't see the point to something he won't do it, hence he believes there is no point at all to mainstream school. He was due to move from year 9 at a junior campus to year 10 at a senior campus this year. As he didn't want to do that we gave him time to seek other options, so far we haven't found anything suitable.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:42 pm
BelindaeHeadspace: Thanks for your question, Leia. What a complex situation you and your son have been experiencing! It sounds like you have been trying your best to determine the reasons for your son’s school refusal behaviours, so good on you for all those efforts. Within some clinical services, there is the ability to conduct what is called a “functional analysis” of the school refusal behaviour using an assessment instrument (alongside interviews with the young person / family members/ school staff). As you might be aware, understanding the basis for the school refusal behaviours is generally the key information required to implement any kind of “solution plan”. If you are already working alongside professionals to develop this “shared understanding” together, good one you! Keep up the good work and hopefully some clarity will come about soon. If you are not yet linked in with a service that offers this type of comprehensive assessment process, I’d highly encourage you to seek out any options available to you given the complexity of your situation. All the best!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:43 pm
eheadspaceMich: any more poll responses before we close soon??
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:44 pm
Clair eheadspace: Agree 100% Kristal. Families being in open with schools is critical to student wellbeing.
I also work at a school and we often have students attending who have serious concerns, that we have not been made aware of. Parents are often scared that they will 'taint' our impression of their child if they share this information.
This can of course make it difficult for the young person to navigate school, without the support they need, makes it challenging for teachers as they are unaware of student needs... but also unfortunately sends a subliminal message to the young person that it's not ok to seek support.
Of course it's very important for the young person and family to be careful sharing personal information, but please make your child's school aware. This could be via the student wellbeing officer, the year level coordinator or perhaps their form teacher.
Collaboration with our child's school is critical to student welfare.
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:44 pm
eheadspaceMich: We’re about to finish the session today in a minute
Thanks everyone for participating and sharing your comments and questions!!
Our next Group Chat session for adults supporting young people will be: Helping a young person who has experienced sexual assault – 6th April at midday eastern standard time (daylight saving ends on 2nd April)
Look on our website https://www.eheadspace.org.au/get-help/eheadspace-group-chat-session/ and check social media for the details closer to the time, and we hope to chat to you then.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:44 pm
Comment From Shelagh
i just want to say thanks to all of the parents for sharing their experiences today. parenting is hard work at the best of times-good luck!
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:44 pm
eheadspaceMich: we're going slightly over time but we have one more comment to post and then we'll close
Thanks again for all your comments and for those following the conversation today too
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:44 pm
Kristal eheadspace: Thanks Hannah - I agree with most of what you're saying. Missing some school is definitely not the end of the world, and the most important thing is to have a young person who feels supported within anything they're finding challenging.
Maintaining relationships and providing support to get through this stuff together is key.
Mainstream school doesn't work for everyone - and if this is the case (as evidenced by school refusal) it's very important to seek the support your family needs to ensure that your young person is able to achieve their goals and dreams.
School refusal has been linked to a number of negative outcomes which is why it's such an important area to address - these outcomes are not purely academic either, but also impacts on mental health, resilience and longer term life satisfaction.
Participant
Participant
22nd Aug, 2:44 pm
Comment From Hannah HyNRG
Just while we're winding up, I want to say that as a young person who refused school A LOT, it's important to know that it's really not the end of the world if you're child misses school and it's not failed parenting either. Maintaining your relationship with your child is the most important thing, ensuring they feel supported and loved. School really doesn't work for everyone, and it's pretty fair enough that a lot of young people hate it so try to work with your young person to try and make it work for them :)
eheadspace Moderator
Moderator
22nd Aug, 2:44 pm