IT’S WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY TODAY.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?
Back in the day, most toddler groups we went to with him were a disaster and would begin or end with a terrified or stressed out meltdown of emotions and tears.
For most mornings of his year of pre-school sessions he was a crying anxious mess. This only began to change slowly in the very last weeks before we left for him to start his journey into Reception but most of it was a raw and hard emotional roller coaster.
For most mornings of his just past Reception year he was again a crying anxious mess. He hated going in to school and slight changes to that routine would be yet another thing to tip him over the edge. We knew what to expect this time but it didn’t make it any easier. He started to form a few friendships but for the most part was pretty solitary and very quiet at school… and easily overlooked due to that. In a busy class of 29 other children, merged with another class of 30 other children and often only two or three amazing but stretched adults looking after them all, he was easily missed when upset or injured. Some of the friendships forming were not of his choice, nor positive due to his social communication issues. He was having most of his work done by other children, he had to leave a lunchtime SEN club due to the disorganisation stressing him out more than it was supposed to help, he was coerced in to social play situations he was not comfortable with repeatedly, he withheld toileting, becoming obsessional about more and more things and his mood swings were severe at home. Without guidance and support all of this and more was continuing and severely impacting his mental health. We had the summer holiday break and it was like we got our little boy back. He was so stress-free, the anger and tears subsided within a few days, his anxious routines fell away from his brain, his body relaxed, his health and energy increased. It was a joy to see.
Going back into Year One after the holidays was nothing short of horrendous. We had to miss his first week back due to him suddenly coming down with a severe and terrifying ‘allergic reaction’ a few days before the start of term which now seems to be related to stress levels (we’ve got an emergency appointment with an allergy specialist at the local hospital in December) which left him like this for days, even with steroids and antihistamines on the case:
When he eventually did manage to go back, it was so rough. Practically every night was filled with begging not to go to school the following day, him trying to explain to us how it makes him feel and how desperate he was not to go back, the walk to school feeling like every step came with a ton of concrete attached to us, each morning filled with tears and prising his little gripping fingers off of every available part of my body/hair/clothes. Both my husband and I would spend all day worrying ourselves sick about him, riddling our hearts with guilt-fired texts between ourselves about how he’s doing, what we should be doing, what other people think etc filling our brains with research, techniques, coping, ways to help him. It was driving us all in to the ground as we knew it wasn’t working. We knew it wasn’t right.
If it was happening to me…
WHAT ABOUT FRIENDS?
This is an important decision and I can’t stress how much we have researched, asked for help, gone to meetings and courses, spoken with school and outside agencies and just tried to ‘wait it out’ before making our decision (and having school agree with us, which was really lovely actually) but I would always urge any parent of a child struggling with mental health, especially revolving around attending mainstream school, that possibly wants to think about home education or other alternatives but is too scared due to taboo and opinion, to consider that there are alternatives out there. You don’t have to just put up with a hard and potentially damaging situation for your family and your child if you feel it’s not right for you.
I’d like to add too that if you do choose to stay in school when faced with similar issues to us then absolutely all power to you, too. I feel no way is wrong, just like when handling adult depression, anxiety and mental health issues. One of the reasons we have a mental health awareness day is to be more open about what you’re going through and what works for you (as long as it is within the law, everyone is consenting etc) and to let others know they are not alone. It’s OK to feel like this and do something about it, It’s OK to feel like this and do something else about it. It’s OK. Lets all try and support each other in the way we’d love to be supported ourselves. Lets build ourselves and each other up instead of finding ways to pick on ourselves or those we deem weaker or wrong, less important or making different decisions to what we’d personally make.