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2son, my 12 year old (and second child) hasn’t been to school for almost a year now.

When I heard of children not going to school, I always wondered what parents are doing with them. Now I know. Other than for those parents who aren’t that bothered about school, for parents whose children have genuine problems going to school, it’s a nightmare.

He started off citing phantom illnesses; he couldn’t breathe or his feet hurt. Then he just stayed in bed. Shouting at him didn’t work, neither did throwing him out of bed. Physically dragging him downstairs just made him retreat into foetal position. He was genuinely unwilling to leave the house for school.

It’s not the school. They have been incredibly supportive and wonderful, bending rules to offer support not strictly within their remit, but that wasn’t on offer elsewhere. It’s not a problem with teachers, or other students. He’s not being bullied. He’s been offered the opportunity of another school and is adamant he wants to stay.

Other than 4 exceptions, he hasn’t left the house for any other reason for a year either.

We had home visits from educational psychologists, from learning support and others. He refused to see any of them except for one 10 minute conversation where the professionals quickly decided he wasn’t clinically depressed or at risk and therefore not a high priority.

As to what has caused all this, I can only hazard a guess from snippets heard from him over the years that he doesn’t like change. I’ve had to promise him that we’ll never move house and that will never have to leave home. He worries, perhaps too deeply, about his purpose in life and how he will cope with future adult responsibilities. Puberty hit him quite early and quickly at the same time as starting secondary schools so there were huge changes for him. He has no contact with his father. I hope he is unaware of the parallel of his father withdrawing from life into bed which is what ultimately caused us to separate.

Six months after this short conversation he got on the CAMHS (Child and Mental Health Services) Back to School programme where a very genuinely lovely specialist teacher, who we’ll call teach,  talked him through issues of going to school to find out the best ways to help him get back to school. This started in October and he refused his first appointment. I got him to the second by banning him from TV and computer etc. for a week in between the two.

He eventually started going back to school, for one or two lessons a day, starting off with student support and then back in his classroom. Then the heating failed at school so they shut for a week and after that was the last few days before the Christmas holidays so what started off well ended up a bit of a mess.

This term he’s been back the first day and that’s it. He stays in bed until I do the afternoon school run for his siblings and then stays up reading half the night. He pretends to be asleep. He refuses to discuss it. He is supposed to go and visit CAMHS if he can’t/won’t go to school but as I can’t get him out of bed, that’s not happening either.

I alternate between feeling incredibly sorry for him and feeling enormously angry with him. My road to personal recovery has been put on hold for the last year while I try and get him on his own road forwards. I can’t concentrate on work as I’m so worried about him and yet I feel helpless as to some extent he has to make his own decisions here.

CAMHS’ view is that we get him back to school so that he is back in a good routine before he is offered any therapy to look at the underlying issues. I wonder whether this is the best approach. It’s fine if it works, but if he refuses to go, then they say they can do nothing. As a child, if he will not engage with any help offered, there is apparently nothing that anyone can do. Talking to the various child mental health charities confirms this so if I cannot, on my own, get him to school or to CAMHS, then no one is going to help. I’m back to being scared for him.

Naturally all this has a knock on effect on myself and his younger siblings, putting a strain on the whole family and the relationships between all of us are under pressure. I find great difficulty in controlling the family dynamics as my mood depends on his mood and actions; I’m no longer in control of the family.

Before Christmas, I had hope. Now I’m back to despair.

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