Tag Archives: anxiety

Why Choose Happiness?

Realising we had to decide on happiness was a light bulb moment for me. Prior to that I had been completely bogged down in ‘what went wrong?’ and ‘who had caused this?’… And my greatest fear… Was it ‘ALL my fault?’  Exhausting.

Choosing Happiness gave us a light, something to work towards (instead of running from), and certainly helped me feel more ‘in control’ of our situation.

Choosing Happiness is not about running rings around your child and giving them everything they want just to try and ‘keep’ them happy… This is a very short term solution (we tried it!) Choosing Happiness IS about learning  (and teaching) some very simple skills, and practicing them. Choosing happiness is taking responsibility for your thoughts and feelings and deciding how you are going to think, feel and act when things don’t go to plan. It is enjoying each moment the best you can, and also keeping your eye firmly fixed on your goal.  Sounds difficult for most adults! (This is where “Everyday Happy: a journal for happiness” will come in very handy.)

Six reasons to choose Happiness:

1 Happiness can lead to greater resilience for you and your child

2 Happiness can increase creativity

3 Happiness can improve health

4 Happiness can lead to better friendships

5 Happiness can improve career and financial prospects

6 Happiness creates greater intelligence and productivity

We choose happiness (or not) everyday through our daily thoughts, feelings and actions.

What are you going to decide today?

 

Managing School Anxiety

Managing School Anxiety

Advice for Parents and Carers…

At least that’s what the peice of paper calls itself… And I can’t see too much wrong with some of the information presented… NOW… After we’ve come out the other side of the dark tunnel…

But here’s the thing…

It’s makes it all seem so… straightforward… so black and white… and straightforward anxiety is not.

The more I read it, the more furious and frustrated I become. Now, after 18 months of work, trials, tears and recently wins, (and a lot of learning) we do a lot of what this ‘advice’ says. But if I had received it in the beginning, I can imagine I would have felt (more) overwhelmed, and wondered why it wasn’t so easy for us…! Why can’t I put a simple morning routine in place, and the anxiety will be gone? And he’ll just, you know, go to school? My son spent half of that 18 months (almost a full academic year) off school… A decision which this paper inherently disagrees with.

So here’s  what I inherently disagree with.

Take suggestion no. 1 ‘Maintain good communication and work with the school to put in place strategies that will help your child manage full attendance and address any concerns’.

But what if the school is the problem? What if (as in our case) the teacher is a bully? What if the children are bullies?  What if the school won’t hear your concerns? What if your child really is anxious BECAUSE of school?  There is a presumption here that the child’s anxiety is unfounded, and that the attendance (the holy grail) is the most important thing? And the strategies?.. What Strategies….? Give me some to use!!

Suggestion  4 Clear messages about school attendance- Everyone has had a different experience of school themselves, some good, some bad. It is important that all those supporting think about the way they speak about school. The key message is that school is not optional and attending is in every Childs best interests’.

Talk about strong, confident (threatening) language! Phew. ‘Best interests’ is an interesting term here.  Again, what if school actually isn’t in their best interests?  Attendance cannot be the measure of success here. If your child attends under duress and finds themselves crying or vomiting throughout the day, how are they going to learn? And what are they going to learn?  To me, all they will learn is they can’t trust anyone, not the school, not their parents… That they have to do what they’re told, regardless of how they feel! Is this teaching them to be confident, well adjusted adults? I don’t think so. It is a recipe for disaster.

Admittedly there are points that are positive and helpful… Not just for anxiety mind. Helping them break down tasks into smaller more manageable peices, rewards for facing fears,  and encouraging independence, problem solving and persistence are all great parenting and life strategies. The term, ‘you can lead a horse to water’ does come to mind though.

So after the 12 ‘suggestions’ to get your child to attend school, we move on to a very brief look at anxiety itself… It’s a normal, sometimes helpful aspect of life and (here’s the bit that made me laugh) ‘we all need to develop ways of coping with these feeling…’ What ways? Here lies the core of what this paper is missing. How to handle the feelings of anxiety… How to teach your child how to handle them…

What do you do when your child is frozen and can’t walk another step forward…? Or when they are begging you in tears not to attend school (or any other activity for that matter)? All the ‘suggestions’ anybody gave you, go right out the window.

When it comes to addressing the things that could actually be going wrong at school they call it ‘Identifying any issues that might be barriers to attending school’….  Hmmmm not the issues that may be causing the anxiety.

And then it finishes with the type of messages we give must give our anxious children through our language. The use of clear, strong, consistent language that expects compliance. Showing a united front…. Against who!!?

And lastly the obligatory ‘get yourself some support’ section. This is probably the most important thing they say.  ‘A supportive adult to share your concerns with’ I would take further to include someone who has been through it… Someone who knows how you feel, and can totally empathise without judgement. (And once you’ve been through it and come out the other side, you can help someone too!)

So how did we do it? Well after the initial freaking out, we got as much help as possible, (attended every class, read every book, watched YouTube and talked to people) and then took the information and made decisions that felt right for us and our child. We put him, his wellbeing and his happiness first. We removed him from the stressor (school) and gave him time to learn techniques, to build his resilience and to understand himself.  We stood united as a family with him and against the anxiety, which built a deep level of trust. I kept thinking, what if he’d broken his leg? He would have had emergency care, recovery, rehabilitation, and only then been asked to run. Asking my child to go to a school he was frightened of, was like asking him to run on a broken leg.  It just didn’t make sense. I also thought what if you take school out, and a child becomes anxious due to abuse or an accident. They are not going to be sent back into the situation that caused it, to help them recover…  It’s counterintuitive! So why do we do it with school?

So if you are on this harrowing journey, be confident that you can do it! Empower yourself with as much information as possible, accept all the help that comes your way, and then follow your instincts… Make decisions based on your family’s needs, listen to yourself and listen to your child!

 

 

 

 

Good Schools and Schools that are Good

It’s something I never thought I’d have to consider, but when the school we’d always attended, loved, and been completely immersed in suddenly became no longer good for us, we found ourselves looking for a new school.

Up until things went wrong, we were all happy, the kids were keen to go everyday and I sat on the PTA helping the school in anyway I could. From the outside our school was good… in fact for the most part, from the inside it was also good… As long as everything was was… Well… perfectly normal.

It wasn’t until things went spectacularly wrong did the cracks start to show. The school leadership did not have the tools, knowledge, flexibility nor, did it seem, the caring to really help us. My son went to school for a total of 6 weeks between October and August, under sever stress, and although staff were caring, the school could not help.

After attempting homeschooling and finding it wasn’t going to work for us (some people do an amazing job), we started our search for a new school.

There were of course conditions… It had to be close enough to home to attend easily, and it had to be ‘good’… or my expectation of good at the time. It was here that my education began.

Our first meeting was at a ‘good’ school. High on the league tables, good reputation, modern facilities, successful sports teams, plans for further improvement, and it was relatively close… All good! Unfortunately No. During the second meeting at this school, with everyone well versed in our situation, our anxious son sat in a room with six adults, who at one point were questioning him about his hand writing…. HAND WRITING…!!  This stood out to me, making me question the schools priorities. I left with a bad taste in my mouth, and the realisation that this school were far more interested in statistics than my son’s welfare. They didn’t really want us.

There was another school not too far away. The area isn’t as ‘nice’,  reputation not as strong, and it’s not so high on the leagues tables, but as it turns out, it is a far better school for us, and here’s why…

They have a diverse range of children at the school they are therefore very tolerant of differences.

They have shown an incredible ability to ‘think outside the box’ to help us resolve difficult situations.

They have been flexible, allowing our son to succeed in ways that work for him.

They have worked with us, and listened to us. Since day one we have felt on the same team.

They have tools and services on hand. From flash cards to a counselling service, they are geared up to help.

Choosing a school is incredibly important, and very personal. If you are in the market for a new school, or even your first school, think beyond the league tables and challenge your expectations. In terms of happiness, and meeting your child’s needs in a wholistic way not all ‘good’ schools are good for all children.