difficult child won't go to school

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by Ronni, Oct 15, 2007.

  1. Ronni

    Ronni New Member

    Has anybody ever had a kid who refused to go to school?
    Silly question, I'm sure I've come to the right place.
    My 16 yr. old son refused to go to school for the last six weeks of the school year 06-07. He was a freshman at the Jr. High. Prior to this, he had racked up quite a few truant days, as well as all the excused absent days he had conned me into. You know the ones, "Mom, please let me just sleep in today, and I promise I won't miss any more days". That was just one of his many excuses. I foolishly fell for them, wanting to believe him, only to get burned again and again.
    After meeting with the school psychologist, vice principal, his psychiatrist, and another psychologist who came highly recommended, I was able to get him into a homebound program, where a teacher would either come to the house or meet with him at the public library for a couple hours each day to hopefully help him get through and pass at least a couple of the classes he would've otherwise failed. By the time we got all this in motion, there was only 2 weeks of school left, but surprisingly, he did manage to squeak out a passing grade in 2 of his classes.
    So this year, going into high school, he was already credit deficient. My husband and I set up an appointment with the school psychologist at the high school before this school year even started to introduce ourselves, and discuss our situation with our son. This man has been wonderful, but I realize he can only do so much, and has 2000 other students to look after. One thing I asked him is, "what should we do if he starts to pull the same :censored2: again?" and he said to let the school handle it.
    Well, my son did manage to make it through the entire first week of school before it started. He missed a day or two every week after that. We met again with the school psy. and his counselor and after hearing that his goal is to get through this year as easily as possible so that next year he can go to the alternative school (not an option until junior year), we changed his schedule up again, 2nd time, so that he doesn't start school until 4th period.
    In spite of all that, he has managed to make it to school only twice in the past 2 weeks. I think that he thinks that this year won't matter anyways, and that once he gets into the alternative school, it will be a walk in the park. Claims all his friends are there (wonderful I know) and they said it's such a great thing there.
    I've tried everything to get him to go to school. I've tried taking away computer, Xbox priviledges, withholding money, rides, etc. I've tried rewarding him with things he wants if he goes to school for a determined period of time (he never makes it), told him the only way he can get his driver's license is to go to school and stay in school, but he says he doesn't care. I've tried grounding, which is now a joke, because he just leaves anyways.
    This whole thing has been really wearing on me. My husband doesn't even have any control over him. I've had so many mornings where I've gone to work with red puffy eyes from crying after fighting with him to get up. This has not helped my depression, it's been very hard. I just don't know how much more of this I can take.
    One thing I have not been doing is calling him in, so these absences are all racking up on his record as truencys. He's digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole that I'm afraid he won't be able to get out of. I know in comparison to what some of you have gone through with your difficult child, this is minor, but I see this as the beginning of all that is yet to come, and it doesn't look too promising. It's hard to think positively, and I feel like I'm grieving the child I thought he was going to be. The most useless piece of advice I've been given is "Just make him go to school". :hammer: Gee, wish I'd thought of that!
    My question is, what can I expect to happen as a result of his refusal to go to school? I wouldn't think the school or the state for that matter,would just let this go. Is there a chance he will be taken out of the home and put in a detention center or something? He has no other criminal record. I'm just curious what consequences he's lining up for himself.
    Just feeling really alone in all this, and needing a soft place to land. Thanks, Ronni
  2. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    in PA they can quit school at 16 with no consequences. might be the same there.

    I would ask the school to go ahead and put him in the alternate school.
  3. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    When my young difficult child refused to go to school (already in alternative school) he was sent to Truency Court and there given bootcamp on the weekends as a punishment. The judge told us about a program that he guaranteed would save our son...a program that involved boarding facility, school, counceling etc. "If only you'll pay the 30k for this program it will save your son". Well we did that...they kicked him out within 9 days and we had to go rescue him at the program in Montanna. They were threatening to send him to their "more punitive program" in Jamaica. No way were we going to let that happen.

    When difficult child got home I found a church homeschool program that young difficult child went to... he eventually got in trouble again and was put in jail then probation which required him to get his GED, which he has now. He also went to 2 college classes while on probation last year, age 17 then.

    So regualar school never worked out for us after 8th/9th grade. It was just a long journey to finally get him his GED. In Texas you have to be 17 I believe but if you are court ordered you can get your GED at 16.

    I wish you all the best with getting your son the education he needs. We went through it all too, the excuses the adament NO I'm NOT going etc. Makes me think that he just didnt want to do the homework, the daily requirements in regular school.
    Learning Disability (LD)'s are something that you might want to look into as well. I think alot of kids give up because some or all of the work becomes too hard at a certain point in their education...for both of my sons 8th-9th grade was the beginning of the end as far as drop out...neither wanted to put out the effort.

    I hope you don't have to go down the "long hard road".
    I'm glad you found us.
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I know that some areas have penalties for parents of students who don't go to school. Not many, but we lived in one area that did.

    Here the child will not pass the year, can go to court (or so we were threatened when our easy child had absences for medical issues - all excused!!), and can not go to school dances/events. Not sure what else is out there.

    School refusal is a term you might want to google. Lots of us have at least some experience with it.

    For your own health, it might be worth it to not fight with him in the morning. Consequences from you and husband together in the evening, but do what you need to so you are not crying all the way to work?


  5. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    You could have been writing about my son a year-and-a-half ago. He also refused school, missing an average of two days a week through his entire Junior year.

    We're in CA and ended up in front of the District Attorney's office because of his truancy issues. Later, he had to appear before a judge on two occasions and was fined ($100 the first time and $250 the second).

    Like your son, nothing seemed to help. He knew very well that he would not be getting his driver's license nor the car we promised him when he graduated if he didn't get with the program.

    I noticed that your son is a pot smoker...our son was eventually court ordered into a group home for committing a crime (his first and only arrest), and, by the way, his school non-attendance played VERY heavily into the judge's decision to remove him from us into a group home where graduating from high school was mandatory before he could be released. During the ten months he was there with no access to marijuana, he told us that, at the time, NOTHING was more important to him than getting high every day.

    As for advice, if WE had it to do over, we would have gotten right on the phone to the truancy officer every morning and had him "escorted" to school. At least in CA, the law reads something like, as parents, we are "compelled" to make certain our child attends school. And, as you found, we also got the "helpful" advice, "Just make him go!"
  6. CAmom

    CAmom Member

    PS Also, we found out later that we could have been charged with negligence for NOT compelling our son to attend school. Another interesting note: we actually met with our son's school's principal and vice-principal to voice our concerns about his attendance and were told that his record "looked pretty good." The judge didn't agree...
  7. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    Like CAmom stated you need to get proactive. If he won't get up and go, call the truancy officer. Let the school know you are doing all you can. Marijuana changes the chemicals in the brain and makes people unmotivated to complete every day tasks. You may want to address that issue as well. Usually, in my experience, just a little pot turns into so much more very quickly.
  8. goldenguru

    goldenguru Active Member

    If he's not is school what is he doing with his time?

    If he's isolating and sleeping alot, I would probably chase the depression thing. When a person is clinically depressed it is not uncommon to withdraw and be unable to perform ADLs (activities of daily living). IE: when my hubby is really in the pit he not only doesn't go to work, he doesn't shower, shave or eat. My point is that perhaps your son is really very depressed. In which case I would worry less about academics and more about getting him emotionally healthy.

    He needs to understand that pot/alcohol are only going to exacerbate the depression symptoms.

    Once the depression issues are fully addressed you may want to consider a school change. A less traditional school may put fewer stressors on him. Trouble with those types of schools is that they typically are made up of 'troubled' kids with drug issues. Talk to the principle of the alternative school to see if will be a good fit.
  9. tracy551

    tracy551 New Member

    My difficult child desided school just "wasn't for him" 1/2 way into his soph year (age 16-held back in 5th grade) I yelled, begged and everything else you can think of. It did'nt work. I swore I was not going to get a fine for truancy so every day he didn't go I called the school so they had on record that I had tried once again to get him to go. In the end we had to go to the magistrate and just like I had thought all along the fines were put over on him. I told the judge I've done all I could and if he still felt I was resposible for difficult child not going to school he could just give me jail time because I was not paying one single nickle for truancy fines. Well difficult child ended up having quite a few dollors to pay up.
  10. jbrain

    jbrain Member

    my difficult child 1 basically just quit going to school in 9th grade. Up til then she had sporadic attendance--was always "sick". In high school she would take the bus to school and then skip out to get high with friends. She was on an IEP for emotional problems and the school tried to be as accomodating as they could but the truth was she just hated school and decided not to go anymore. Eventually she was suspended for being drunk at school and at that time we had already decided to send her to an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Utah. While she was waiting for a bed to open up she was tutored at home but that was basically a farce. At least she was staying at home and didn't run away while waiting to go to the Residential Treatment Center (RTC).

    She did okay at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s school and came home after 8 1/2 months. She attended an expensive private school and did okay for a month or 2 but then relapsed and quit going. She eventually was picked up by the police after living on the streets all summer and sent to another rehab. For some reason she decided she really wanted her GED and worked very hard for it at this rehab. We had pretty much given up on the idea of her getting through school so we were surprised that she had decided to do this--she was student of the week many times and her teachers loved her. After she got the GED she pretty much got herself kicked out of the rehab for non compliance but I was glad she did have the GED.

    I am so glad those school years are over!!!
  11. Ronni

    Ronni New Member

    Thank you to everyone who responded. Just knowing that I'm not alone in this helps me somewhat. It seems at my job, I'm surrounded by all these parents with these wonderfully successful, athletic, bright kids who are on the honor roll and the star of their football, hockey, basketball, etc. teams. It's really hard not to feel like a total failure as a parent.
    I am so angry at my son, and all this is affecting the mood of the entire household. I'm having a really hard time even trying to talk to him about this and am wondering how you get on with life in spite of this kind of upheaval.
    I've heard of detaching with love, but wonder how to do it. I feel like if I act all loving and kind, he will think I'm condoning his not going to school. So for the most part, I don't say much of anything to him because when I open my mouth, I can't stop the sarcasms and lectures from coming out. I know that is doing nothing to improve his state of mind, not to mention the guilt I feel after I get done blasting him.
    My husband isn't of much help because his communication skills are even worse than mine, so he deals with it by either yelling at our son, or takes on jobs outside the home to not have to deal with it at all. I'm a hairstylist, and why is it I can talk better and more intimately with my clients at work than I can with my own son and husband? (I don't expect anybody to answer that, just my wondering outloud).
    Well, I'm off to read something positive and uplifting. I need to take care of me in all this. If I don't do something good for me, it's really easy for me to get on the pity pot and sink myself into a very deep dark place I don't want to be. Thanks again for all your support.
  12. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    go to the library and read this book
    boundaries by townsend and cloud
    I guarantee you will recognize yourself in the first few pages. it can help to look at a situation with different perspective

    I am the practice administrator at my work. I cannot tell you how painful it is to hear of my coworkers successful kids, my boss with four obedient, well read and happy sons...and here I am when people ask me how my sons are....ant is back in jail.
    My family and coworkers know it is not my fault and that I have done all I could and that helps too.

    by the way I was on my high school Pom and Dance team too. loved it. best time of my life!

    TYLERFAN New Member

    Hi Ronni & Welcome,

    I can give you 2 scenarios, from my experience.
    1.A high school child is truant habitually, her friends are on the edge, mostly the alt program....nothing her parents or the school threaten makes any difference, she continues to not want to go to school. This child formerly an A student up to now, finally makes it to the alt program, blends in with her friends and goes almost her full senior year, every day.....She goes to Community college for 2 years and then to a private school and gets her Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice with honors.
    2. A high school child has a penchant for making friends with the "outgoing type"....she discovers that she can sneak out of school and then realizes she can stay out of school, for days, while her mother is working and eventually runs away for days at a time. This child is an extreme risk taker, gets into drugs early, gets into boys early. Her mother takes her out of school to find an "alternative" and the child never returns to school. The learning disability this child has, is pretty much ignored by the school and the authorities.

    I gave these two examples to show you differences in what we're talking about. Is your child into the teen rebellion thing or do you think other factors combined make the problem more serious? It makes a difference on how I would respond.....
    If you want to know what the school can do, they can file a petition with the Family Court for a PINS or CHINS (Person in Need of Supervision) against your son. This can start the ball rolling with the family court, the social workers, the CPS, you name it. This rarely is helpful to a child who otherwise isn't in serious trouble. On the other hand, if the child is having serious risktaking behaviors, then it may be in his best interest to get some assistance, however, I would still try to do it privately.

    I hope this helps. By the way, the person in my example #1 is Me.
    #2 is difficult child.

  14. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    how are ya?
  15. rose2lilly

    rose2lilly New Member


    I'm going through the same thing with my 15 yo (soon to be 16 yo) son! It's so great to know I'm not alone in this! My son intends on quitting when he's 16 and my husband and I have accepted that. We are requiring that he get his GED and a job. If he chooses not to do that, I don't know what we'll do. Right now, he won't even get up and he's a lot bigger than me so I can't drag him out of bed! So, I let him sleep the day away. I figure as long as he's asleep, he is safe and not getting on my nerves.

    There is an organization run by the Fed. govt called Job Corp. They help kids get their GED's and train them in certain jobs, even help them get a job when they're through training. Kids can get into the program as young as 16. They even pay you while you train! And, they live in dorms -- alot like college. The web site is jobcorps.org. My son failed 9th grade because he refused to work while in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) last year. His teachers and guidance counselors have been wonderful, but he just wants to live his life without rules and responsibilities.

    I have even tried to get the Juvenile Services involved. But, because he hasn't committed any crime, yet, they can't do anything. In the meantime, if I'm lucky and get him to school, he ends up cutting his last classes and I won't see him for several days. I call the police, they bring him back, he runs off again. The parents are suffering more than the child it seems.

    Good luck for the rest of the school year!
  16. hanging by a thread

    hanging by a thread New Member

    i know how you feel, my child is the opposite, he wants to go to school but cant bring himself to get out the house at least once or twice a week, hes racking up the absences and hes a b student, ive been to all kinds of doctors, tried all kinds of medicine and nothing seems to help, he gets himself so worked up that he physically cant leave, im ready to sign on the dotted line when he is 16, i just cant take anymore of this, its so hard to watch your child destroy his life, ive always been able to help my children but not this time, i get him up at 630 and half the time i dont make it to work till 10, im crying, cant concentrate, its a horrible thing and i feel for you, you never know whats going to come in your door
  17. Ronni

    Ronni New Member

    Thanks again to everybody who responded. Well, up until this week, my difficult child was only making it to school maybe one day per week, and so far, there hasn't been any real consequences from the school. I met up with the school psychologist and difficult child's counselor a couple times and they are very aware of his truency problems. I was told to let the school handle it, I didn't need to call them when he refused to go to school, only when I was excusing an absence. So that is exactly what I've been doing, basically nothing. In a way, that's probably worked for me because all this has really taken an emotional toll on me, and I don't know that I was cabable of doing much more than that. But alot has happened this past week.
    First of all, I have been prescribed celexa from my own Dr. and I can't believe the difference it has made in my attitude. It no longer seems like the end of the world. Secondly, my difficult child had an appointment with his Dr. Monday, but at the last minute refused to go. So I didn't want to just stand the guy up, so I went alone, and was able to give alot of information to him on what I observe at home from my difficult child. When difficult child goes to the appointments, he usually doesn't answer the questions truthfully because he doesn't want the Dr. thinking he's bad, or judging him. He says it's none of the Dr.'s business what he does or how he acts, and when I would try to say something, he'd kill me with dirty looks. So when I went to see his Dr. by myself, I was able to talk openly about difficult child. Well, his Dr. thinks that difficult child is bipolar based on his past behavioral history, and what I told him about his current behavior.
    So he prescribed Abilify, and so far, difficult child has been cooperative in taking the medications. I didn't tell him that it's for bipolar, cause he would fly off the handle, and then he'd refuse to take the medications. He thinks they're just to help with his moods. (Same thing I guess) You know how teens are with being labeled. He doesn't want anybody to think he's crazy or that there's something wrong with him. I guess I don't know much about bipolar, and have been reading up on it to understand it better. I'd appreciate hearing from anybody who has a difficult child with bipolar, and what I can expect. I realize that everybody's different, but I don't know what I'm dealing with here.
    This past week, he made it to school 4 days, so that's good. I don't know if it's the medications or what, but I'm happy and hope that this continues. His Dr. said to keep him out of the alternative school if at all possible cause he's too smart for that, but we will just have to see how this year goes. He's planning on going to the alternative school next year.
    I have to take easy child to a football game, but will check in later.
  18. jamrobmic

    jamrobmic New Member

    My son is bipolar, and we had the school issues with him as well. In this state, they can drop out at 16, but only with parental permission. They have to be 18 to drop out on their own. We put him in the juvenile system at 15 (for truancy), and then he put himself there a few months after getting off probation for truancy (for theft). Nothing really changed his behavior until he was correctly diagnosed and put on medication that worked for him. At that point, he did very well-he became someone we actually liked. He was pleasant, he stopped raging, managed to get his GED, got a part time job, and was going to technical school. He ended up dropping out of technical school when he had trouble passing one class, even though he still had a passing GPA. He didn't tell anyone he was having trouble, he just stopped going to school.

    When he turned 18 and moved into his own apartment, his behavior got ugly again. He stopped taking his medication, ended up moving back in with us, and has been a PITA ever since. He didn't work for six months, and since then has started and quit several jobs. We found out that he got into an argument with a customer at one job, got reprimanded, and quit because he got "yelled at." He has been at his latest job for about six weeks, and we thought he was finally beginning to find his way, but he hasn't gone to work for the past two nights, so we think he either quit or got fired. He tells me to trust him and not worry about it. Right. He has punched holes in the doors of his bedroom (says we had planned to replace them anyway, which was true, but we hadn't planned to replace them now). husband had to call the police a few months ago because difficult child was throwing things because he got mad at husband.

    The point to all of this is that people with bipolar can function very well with the right supports and the right medication. But they have to learn to accept that there is something wrong, and they do have limitations. For example, if our son doesn't get enough sleep, he's impossible to deal with. Yet he will stay up for a couple of days at a time because he has things to do. I think one of the hardest issues for us has been convincing our son that there is something wrong with him and that he does need medication. He refuses to believe there's anything wrong, and he thinks medication is a tool we use to try to control him. He asked me why he should take medicine so we can stand to be around him. He honestly doesn't think it helps him function better, even though everyone around him could see the difference.

    I hope this helps and isn't too depressing. We haven't given up on our son, even though right now it doesn't look like he has much of a future. There's always hope. Your son might be more willing to accept his diagnosis than ours has been. If so, there's no reason he can't lead a pretty normal life.