• wendygourley

School Anxiety

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

When you read a blog, you expect the writer to know what she's talking about, or at least I do. Today, I'm writing about my struggle with something that is becoming quite a common thing. School anxiety. And I'm really struggling. I have no advice to give. I'm just sharing the path I'm on.

My son, Max, he's 13 and in grade 8. He's a typical video gamer kid, loves hockey, has average intelligence but has a learning disability, and hates school. Always has. Well, maybe not always. JK and SK were OK. But in grade 1 he got a teacher that didn't believe in him. We were living in northern Ontario where towns are bilingual. When we moved there, we decided to put our two younger boys into French Immersion schools, and it worked well. The school was small, friendly, knew me by name when I came in, and had a tight little community going. But early in grade 1, my youngest son's teacher decided that he should be in an English school, and she was quick to tell me about it and tell my son about it. I was rather angry at her. She was not in a position to make that opinion known to my son nor to act like her opinion was based on any fact. For the rest of that school year, she made no effort to help him. After all, in her opinion, he shouldn't be in her class, so if he couldn't do the work it just reinforced her opinion. Max felt the vibe from her. He didn't belong there.

The impact she had on him stretched forward in time. He felt alienated in school then, and feels alienated in school now. Two years ago, the principal of the school he was attending at the time, called me in to talk about Max's attendance. She had pulled his attendance records for each grade and showed them to me. Every year, Max missed between 20-25 days of school; on average he missed two days each month. Today, in grade 8, he misses 2 days a week. Ugh!

Last year, in grade 7, he was doing pretty well. The Fall term was set to reach his typical 2 days per month absences and I was fine with that. But just before Christmas, our oldest son tried to kill himself (more on that another day), and it threw Max into a tail spin. When January arrived, Max flat out refused to go to school. I would drive him to Tim Horton's for breakfast and then take him to school and he would sit in the car and literally tell me, "You can't make me go in". We grounded him, took away the internet from him, told him he couldn't go to hockey. Nothing worked. He was vomiting at the thought of going to school. I later discovered that he had somehow linked being in school to his older brother not being safe. His brain told him, "As long as I'm home, my brother is safe".

Then Covid-19 arrived. The world went into lockdown. Schools closed. A dream come true for Max. From March to the end of August there was almost no school requirement for him. We were in a pandemic and no one really knew how to navigate it. We realized that kids were playing on their computer games far more than was recommended but we rationalized it by saying, "It's a pandemic. It won't last forever."

But, it is now the middle of October and since March, he has sat at his computer playing video games. School is hit and miss. I usually manage to get him to school early in the week but by Thursday he's complaining about stomach cramps, diarrhea and whatnot, and Covid protocols say that if a student isn't feeling well, he needs to go home and stay home for 24 hours before returning. Again, his dream come true.

I'm a recent Child & Youth Care grad. All the information I learned hasn't had a chance yet to leak out of my brain, but still, I don't know how to get my own kid to go to school. When I look three years into the future to the day he turns 16, I see him dropping out of school because he can. Today was a successful day; it took me two hours to get him to school, arriving at 10:15. Better late than at home.

I guess I just wanted to vent a little and help someone else realize that no one has all their crap together. We all struggle, even in areas where we are the "expert", whatever that might look like. So whatever your struggle looks like today, I wish you strength to get through it. Look for the small wins and celebrate them. Look after yourself; self-care is super important. We can do this! We got this!

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