Dear Dr. Archer,
I have a 15 year old son who has had many problems in school for several years. When you see and talk to him, you think he's perfectly okay. The truth is, in seventh grade he decided to quit all sports. He was always having stomach aches and migraines at school and started refusing to go.
We have seen psychologists who have diagnosed him with anxiety, but really have not had any real suggestions as to what to do. He only went to school about two weeks total of his freshman year.
We filed a youth at risk petition and they put him in detention, which scared him to death. He is very afraid of the dark and of being confined, but he still could not make himself to go to school, even knowing the consequences.
He talks about going but always quits. He has talked of suicide, and we've had to rush him to the E.R. He says he was just saying that, but that he doesn't really want to do it.
It is now his sophomore year; he went to school one week and quit. He just completed a neuro-psychological evaluation but it's taking forever to get the results from the psychologist.
We don't think he would really participate in online school and we are lost. Does anyone have similar problems out there?
The most important thing you could do for your son is to find out what is the real reason he suddenly doesn't want to go to school or participate in sports. Ideally there is open communication where the child knows he can tell the parent anything and everything without judgment or repercussions. Something to work for in the future, but as for now think about the following.
Could this be peer pressure or bullying? Is he having a difficult time with the structure of school or school authority? Does he have new friends? Could he possibly be involved in drugs?
Usually, when a teen loses interest in school he is either experiencing personal problems in school, being bullied, using drugs or he has a physical illness. Bring up all of these and talk with him. Read his expression as you bring each up, you may find a clue as to the problem.
You say your son has been diagnosed with anxiety, but you do not say if he was given medication. If he was placed on medication, it’s clearly not working. And you need to get a psychiatrist involved in addition to the psychologist.
I'm not sure why you mentioned his fear of the dark and confinement, but if someone was doing that to your son as punishment, it is not the way to go. Consequences should be the removal or limitation of television, video games and cell phone usage.
As for suicide, if he threatens you must take it seriously and that means ER. But have a talk with him and let him know that is not appropriate to use as a threat. That you want to help him no matter what, but that he has to work with you to figure this out.
As far as earning his diploma online, that’s fine and another option to consider is home schooling. The consequence for not participating will be that he returns to school. You might be surprised.
First things first, though. Find a good psychiatrist right away and get an assessment to go along with the psychological testing. Good luck to you all.