A mother is worried about her son who does nothing but stays in his room and doesn’t want to go to school. Should she be worried? We have some advice in this week’s A Problem Shared.
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I’m worried about my 11-year-old son. He’s become really quiet and just stays in his room all the time. He says he doesn’t want to go to school but he won’t tell me why. I’ve asked him if there’s anything wrong but he won’t tell me anything. I don’t know what to do next, please help.
Our FamilyPoint Advice
Thanks for contacting us here at FamilyPoint. What you describe is a tough situation for any parent. There could be a number of reasons for your sons’ behaviour, so don’t immediately think the worst.
It’s good to talk
Talking is a good place to start. You say that he won’t open up to you and tell you if there’s anything wrong so it might be worth reconsidering your approach. He’s 11 years old and this age can be a difficult time for a young boy. Puberty is looming and with that can come a lot of embarrassing situations that he may not feel comfortable telling mum about directly. It’s a really common thing for teenagers or those approaching teenage life. Relate have a great article ‘How do I get my teenager to talk to me?’ that tries to explain why they aren’t talking to you, and tips on how to open up a conversation with them.
Approach is important
How did you start that conversation with your son? Did you just bulldoze straight into it and ask him outright? Try to put him at ease. Do something he enjoys that relaxes him and then try and ask questions in a less direct way. Try asking, “If you had to pick the worst thing about year 7 what would that be?” or, “If you could change school in one way then what would you do?”
You could also join in with the things he likes doing for a bit, like playing a computer game with him, or at least watching him play and talking about the game. If he feels more at ease then he may reveal more to you about what’s going on.
While it’s good to talk and use some of the above tips to encourage this, it’s also important for you to be honest with your son. He needs to know what can happen if he doesn’t go to school. You should explain to him why it’s better to sort out his problems now before they get even bigger.
While it’s important to be supportive, it’s also important that he knows the implications of not attending school. He should know that the local authority could fine you – check out this page on gov.uk about legal action to enforce school attendance. Fixed penalty notices were introduced in Wales in 2014, you can find further information about this in the education section on your Local Authority website.
It is important to reassure him that you are there to support him. You can help him resolve any issues he has at school. He needs to know that you are there for him and that you won’t judge him. Tell him that you understand that people of his age can have problems that they may need help with. The NHS Choices website has further tips on Talking To Your Teenager such as not to assume or accuse, not to react to anger and to help them to feel safe.
Has anyone else noticed?
Try talking to a trusted adult from his school environment, such as his registration teacher or pastoral worker. Ask if they’ve noticed anything out of the ordinary happening in school. You may be thinking of the worst-case scenario, such as bullying, but it could be that he’s struggling with a certain topic, or doesn’t like a particular teacher. At this stage, you just don’t know, and it would be a good idea to gather a little more information.
Another approach could be to look at your son’s peer group. Does he have friends in school or out of school? Be careful how you approach this, try and be discreet so as not to cause any problems or embarrassment amongst his friends. Perhaps you could talk to their parents? Maybe they could offer some insight into what’s going on, perhaps their children are acting in the same way, or they might have told their parents about something that’s happening to your son.
You might not be the right person
Your son might not feel ready or able to talk to you about what’s going on, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t talk to someone else. Give yourself some peace of mind by giving him details of some organisations that he could talk to confidentially. There are support services in school that you could inquire about such as pastoral support, or you could pass on details of the Meic Cymru helpline. He can talk, text or chat online to an advisor anonymously about his problems. Maybe once he’s chatted to someone else he’ll feel ready to tell you what’s going on, but whether he does or not, you’ll feel happier knowing that he’s talking to someone and getting advice.
We wish you all the best with your son. Take care.
The Family Point team
If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.
A Problem Shared… is your space to share both your problems and your advice with the FamilyPoint community.
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