When school becomes too difficult

What can make school so difficult for so many children?

It isn’t actually that difficult understand. Schools are busy, noisy, relentless and socially demanding places with very little room for individual differences, choice, respite or control. Increasingly teachers are under pressure to achieve higher standards with fewer resources. Perfect conditions for creating sensory overload and anxiety for many children (and teachers!).

You would not believe the number of adults we see in therapy who trace back feelings of stupidity and worthlessness to a specific experience of feeling humiliated or terrified in the classroom. We also work with many children who are finding school very difficult to manage.

In school, there is little wiggle room for dealing with learning difficulties, life struggles or personality differences.

Children who are academic, extroverted, compliant and independent will be just fine. But what about those more impulsive, risk-taking children who we absolutely need in the adult workforce? How do we nurture the more introverted thinkers with little interest in pleasing their teachers? And what about those who are intelligent but struggling with a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia or processing speed difficulties? Or those with an experience of trauma finding it hard to concentrate and being triggered by shouting and unpredictable environments? School often leaves these children feeling inadequate, anxious, frustrated and not valued. At worst, school can become untenable or inaccessible.

We discuss the challenges of school and our top tips for supporting your child here .

We have recently joined forces with amazing charity FAR Skate. FAR Skate is headed up by headteacher and skateboarder Brent Lewis. Brent is also the director of Skateboard England and will have a lead role with the UK Olympic skateboard team!

FAR Skate create a very relaxed environment complete with half-pipe, laser printers, carpentry workshop and old-school arcade game. They use skateboarding and skateboard design and construction to teach – ratio and area are taught through skateboard design. They have an amazing 16 plus programme in which students obtain qualifications in Maths, English, Business, Graphic Design, Carpentry, Web Design and skateboard teaching. Many students go on to set up their own business in the skateboarding world. This place has blown us away!

Pocket Family Psychologist will be working with FAR Skate to ensure a programme of mental health support for their students. We also hope to learn more about the psychological skills and resilience developed through skateboarding and the programme at FAR Skate. We will be back to update you soon – parents, young people and teachers stay peeled 👀!

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"Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative"

“Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative. During the second period of lockdown and home-schooling; parents and children found themselves again in a period of upheaval and transition. Many parents and carers were extremely worried about their children’s mental health and their own ability to be present and engaged whilst also playing the role of teacher and care giver. Dr Shortland gave attendees an insight into how many parents were feeling; tips on supporting children and helping them cope whilst studying from home and also managing their mental health. She also helped us realise the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to effectively support our children. It was such a useful session that we realise it was also pertinent for not only children’s mental health but also adults! We will be holding another session with Dr Andrea and MediaCom soon.”

Avelon Thompson, MediaCom (following a parenting workshop)