Saturday, February 21, 2015

Help! My Teen Just Told Me They Don’t Like School

This post is for parents or guardians who can't even begin to think about their child's money making future because they have just had their world turned upside down.  We are often times side-swiped by the things we least expect.  I hope this helps!

It begins innocently enough.  Your teen son or daughter wakes up with a bad stomach ache.  Being the great parent that you are, you attend to your child’s needs right away, giving them milk of magnesia or some other over-the-counter remedy.  You check back with them minutes later, only to find that the stomach ache has not gone away.  Trusting your child (and why wouldn’t you? This is not a common occurrence) you allow your teenager to stay home from school.  All’s well that ends well, right?  Not so fast!

The next morning it happens again.  Your teen has another stomach ache.  You think: Can it be the stomach flu?  As much as it inconveniences you, it’s time to level-up your response; time to take a trip to the hospital.  The pediatrician gives your child a good inspection and finds nothing wrong with them.  Still, a prescription for even more powerful stomach medication is written, and you, of course, fill-it at the pharmacy.

You know what’s next by now.  The medication has no effect.  The next morning, your teen still has to run to the bathroom, or they don’t want to move in their bed because their stomach is hurting too much.  It’s like all the attention you gave him/her has intensified, rather than alleviated, the condition.  Feeling desperate, you start getting upset.  “Okay, son, what is really going on?”  And then you hear the words no parent ever wants to hear with respect to their child’s academic (and future money making) prospects: “I don’t like school!”

How can this be?  Your child has always loved going to school.  They’ve earned average or above average marks all through their schooling.  They’ve never been absent longer than a few days here and there from Kinder through 8th or 9th grade.

The above situation happens every day in America.  It always leaves the loving and caring parent(s) in unfamiliar territory.  That is why I am going to share the following tips with you.  I want you, mom, dad, guardian, to feel empowered to act as appropriately as your particular case demands.  First, however, you need to understand why your teenager has just dropped this bomb on you.

Reason 1: Mental Health Issue

Many teenagers start having problems with anxiety in high school.  The cause of this anxiety will vary.  Some reasons for anxiety are:

a) Added academic pressure at school.
b) Added pressure to excel at school coming from home, i.e., from you.
c) Bullying or peer pressure from friends.

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If something medical has been ruled out by the doctor, it could just be that your teen has real psychosomatic symptoms OR is just plain fooling you.  The end is the same: task avoidance.

What do you do?  In the case of both “a” and “b,” I recommend you start by making an appointment with your teen’s counselor.  After the counseling session, you can expect two responses from your teen.  Either they return to school; problem solved.  Or they continue to refuse going to school.  If the latter, I recommend you make an immediate appointment with a Psych.  The anxiety will intensify if you don’t.  The “problem” has grown in their mind, “making things worse.”  You will most likely need a great Psych, and some family counseling.  Good luck with that.  The sessions are never a guarantee that the crisis will be handled and “fixed.”  But there are no alternatives that don’t involve your teen becoming a truant.  Sure, their anxiety may cycle back down in due time, but by then your teen has missed too much school to catch up.

What if your teenager says, “There is a kid at school that…” 

What should you do if you suspect bullying?  As much as it’s parental instinct to assume the worst (bullying is pretty bad) make sure you gather as many facts as possible.  For example, you should ask: Who is bullying you (name of person)?  What exactly are they saying or doing to you?  You will be thanked by the Dean or Vice Principal for coming to the school with great notes.  And that is where I want you to go: To the Administration Office.  Report the case sooner than later.  You may be inclined to email the Guidance Counselor.  Don’t do that.  They’re not as trained to deal with instances of bullying as are Deans or VPs.  Be proactive and get your teen the right type of expertise.

Reason 2: Boredom

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Is your teen bored with school?  Were they on pace to graduate before revealing their dislike of school?  Do you feel impotent, expressing to your teen that they’re throwing it all away?  Don’t panic.  Get to the bottom of things.  First, determine the type of boredom your teen has.  Is it…

a) They’re bored by HS being too easy for them.  This is the case of the genius child.
b) They’ve lost interest in “playing the game.”  This is the case of the student who refuses to play by society’s rules.


c) The routine of going to school, reporting to class, doing classwork and homework, etc., has become deathly unbearable.

Education has never been about schooling.  Education is the act of life-long learning, and it happens anywhere.  Take the following measures.

Ensure that your teenager understands your stance: Getting a HS diploma or equivalent is a non-negotiable.  It will happen!  Once that’s clear you can begin to discuss options.  For both “a,” and “c,” look into Independent Studies programs offered by the school district.  If none, look outside the district.  Some Charters are exclusively I.S. schools.  “B” is the most challenging scenario I have personally assisted parents with.  The rebel offspring is smart and often manipulative.  They get a rise out of the way an authority figure reacts.  I recommend you work with an expert on motivation and recalcitrant kids.  The more you attempt to fight your rebel teen, the more they will lash out and attempt to show-you-up, so to speak.  If you don’t have the proper training, and can’t afford an expert, then find a great Dean or V.P. and plead with them to work with your child ongoing.  It will take time, but a great administrator can also become a great mentor.

Parent, you will make-it past the dreaded teenage years.  Just take things one day at a time!

Thanks for reading!  Please leave a comment or question.

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