I had a black dog, his name was depression. So does my son. He met the black dog at the age of 11.
Most of the stories I’m reading in the Not fine in school Facebook group are stories of kids with depression, who are being mistreated by the professionals who are supposed to be supporting very vulnerable children.
My family are out the other side of this now, and I want to reassure you that there is hope.
Below is the advice I wish I had been given in 2018. When it became apparent that school was the problem for my amazing son:
1) Set aside your battles with school about whether they did this or that, It’s just noise and you can’t win. Save your energy for what’s important. Loving your child.
2) Become an expert in your child’s mental health.
3) You are in this on your own. The system will cause more problems than it solves. You are the expert in your child. There is no quick fix. There is no long term fix.
4) It takes a child more than 2 years of feeling safe to recover. For most kids, that’s 2 years out of school.
5) Forget about falling behind and exams. It’s just noise. Exams don’t help if you are too broken to leave the house.
6) Stop worrying about the future and make your child’s today the best it can be.
7) Keep your eyes on your child. Work out what they need and be ruthless in achieving it.
8) You will lose friends and have to distance yourself from family members who drag you down.
This is captured by this diagram. Kids who feel safe grow and learn by themselves. They teach themselves to walk and talk! But they can only do that when the base of their pyramid of needs is strong at the bottom. Let the top section look after itself – rebuild the bottom two layers for them.
I decided to focus on making sure my boy made it to adulthood in one piece, without a substance habit, self harming or a criminal record.
He can get qualifications when he needs it and the adult education Network is far more sensitive and compassionate.
After 4 years of the above approach and he now attends sports clubs, defines his own curriculum – volunteers at a food network – sleeps when he needs to, cleans his teeth and washes every day. I’m certain he will be fine.
There were some smelly days, months when he didn’t leave the house. But it didn’t matter. Life is a marathon not a sprint.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Most importantly he trusts me and talks about big stuff, because he is confident I will listen and keep him safe.
Share this video with your child. Give them the correct technical language and validation of knowing that what they are experiencing is real and people survive.