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Unhappy 8 year old, school work and self esteem

(17 Posts)
Wendy11 Mon 16-Nov-20 20:05:26

My son’s wife died 2 years ago of alcoholism. She was very unhappy and found life difficult. Sadly the eight year old child gets very angry and depressed. This isn’t surprising but my son does a great job and is very calm and loving with him. Obviously the virus means I can’t go, the other grandmother is in their bubble. But I speak to him and the 6 year old twice a day, once to play and once to help with schoolwork . ( I am a teacher) He hits himself, he says he can’t do his schoolwork. He gets hysterical often. He is currently having to isolate so I try to help online. Maths goes well, but having to write terrifies him. This morning he had to describe 3 settings in a scary setting. He screamed he couldn’t do it. What should I do?

Septimia Mon 16-Nov-20 20:24:11

Would it help to get him to dictate to you what he wants to say instead of having to write it? Could you write/type it for him and email it to him? Then graduate to him copying out what you've sent in his own writing. Small steps as he gains confidence.

If the instructions were actually 'Describe 3 settings....' that sounds quite scary in itself. Leave the formal instrucitons aside and just chat about the subject.

I know - teaching my grandmother to suck eggs! I'm an ex-teacher...

EllanVannin Mon 16-Nov-20 20:29:53

As a family we can relate to this behaviour and I can say that it will pass given time. My GGC lost their dad in March this year and were uncontrollable in lots of ways with tantrums brought about by anger at losing their dad.

Children don't have a filter and will misbehave wherever they are. One of them it was in class when he'd behave like someone possessed but he also knew that the teacher would ring home for someone to collect him and take him out of that situation. This continued for a few weeks this year, he was 9 at the time and since becoming 10 and a few more weeks have gone, he's now a model pupil.

You can't force them to do anything that they don't want to do and all you can do is have a word with his teacher. Children can't explain how they feel the same as an adult can which is why they " play out " their feelings in their behaviour. Reassurance is all you can give to help with their confidence.

I hope things can improve for your son and yourself of course and wish you the best. Only time will tell.

Lolo81 Mon 16-Nov-20 20:32:35

Has your GS had any additional support following his mother’s death? It could be that he is struggling to identify feelings of loss or fear and it’s affecting other areas?

Another suggestion is to remove emphasis on writing and of labelling it as such - so maybe not saying right it’s time to do your language work (or whatever it’s normally called).
My eldest nephew is autistic and has a pathological fear of handwriting things due to a well meaning TA trying to help him with his handwriting as a leftie a few years back. The experience for him left him lacking confidence and like he was stupid or a failure (this was due to the TA persevering with him and trying a practice makes perfect approach - the was no harsh words or anything), but it took years to discover that trigger as he struggled to identify and name his feelings, instead melting down or disengaging.
His support worker now has shifted the emphasis from handwriting to creative reading and writing on a subject which he engages with - so for my DN that’s formula one. It’s still a daily struggle, but he at least attempts to engage and will read and do creative writing on his tablet. They have managed to expand this out and include other subjects he will engage with. He has a mainstream reading and spelling capability, his handwriting is still not great, but in a technological age with his challenges this different approach has been wonderful for him. As far as I know this is blended into his day as to announce that subject would induce panic.
I’m not sure how helpful any of this was for you, but hopefully you make some progress with him and he starts to build his confidence, wishing you all the best.

EllanVannin Mon 16-Nov-20 20:37:26

The worst things that happened with my GGS was the rank cruelty of other children who knew he was living with his nan because his mum had had a breakdown. That above anything he couldn't handle and he caused mayhem and destruction in his class because of his anger toward them.
Only the virus stopped me from going to the school and having a word or two myself. I was so furious and frustrated.

EllanVannin Mon 16-Nov-20 20:41:03

You have to get to the root cause of why they're not liking their lessons before anyone tries teaching them otherwise it's a waste of time. These children need extra help.

Doodle Mon 16-Nov-20 20:43:44

Lucky boy to having loving GP and a Dad who cares for him.
Did your DGS write properly before? Can he read, is he dyslexic perhaps.
Poor boy sounds very upset. Can he do things one to one with his dad to build up his self esteem.

petra Mon 16-Nov-20 20:47:31

For a start I'd stop the homework and then be in the car to get to his house to give him a hug and loads of kisses. Rules or no rules. My family's mental health comes before everything.

Daddima Mon 16-Nov-20 20:53:06

As far as the wee one’s behaviour is concerned, I would be inclined to take my lead from the dad and those involved with his schooling.
What I wanted to say was that there is a lovely book called ‘No Matter What’ by Debi Gliori. She told me she wrote it when her marriage broke up, and one of her children was having behaviour difficulties and problems at school. It’s about how a child will be loved ‘ no matter what’, and there is a mention of love carrying on even after someone has died.

MissAdventure Mon 16-Nov-20 20:56:52

I think phone calls twice a day is probably not helping with your grandson's unhappiness about not being able to do the work.

lemongrove Mon 16-Nov-20 21:00:13

Any eight year old and six year olds who have lost their Mother ( even one with many problems) is going to feel unhappy, anxious and out of their depth.Schoolwork must be
So hard for them and they will lack concentration.Everyone should go very gently with him the teacher, his Father, his grandparents.If you’re not in his bubble it sounds as if you can’t help very much except to have loving contact with him via technology.The other Grandma could buy him workbooks
Which children can do in their own time, and help him that way.Some children respond better to verbal questions, others are better when they read the words and have time to assimilate the answers.Many children are slower to learn, even without all the misery these boys are experiencing.
They will come out of it eventually, it just needs time and patience.

trisher Mon 16-Nov-20 21:04:29

Poor child. He is trying to cope with so much. A scary setting may be something too close to reality for him (we know it means something ghostly or creepy). His life is a scary setting for him. No wonder he got upset. I'd say leave the imaginative writing for a bit if he prefers to do maths let him do it. It is after all something practical and gives him a focus away from his problems. Work with what he can and will do. He needs time to adjust and encouragement to build his confidence. If he misses some work he can catch up later. I would start each session with asking him how he is feeling, then what work he feels he can tackle . If something upsets him leave it and go back to something he has done well. Perhaps his dad could have a word with his teacher about things and explain he may not do all the set work. I'm sure he will come through it but it will take time. It must be very hard for you trying to teach and care for him. Hope you have someone to support you.

Quercus Mon 16-Nov-20 22:15:02

Give him a break from online schoolwork with Grandma and focus on something positive instead.

M0nica Mon 16-Nov-20 22:47:36

This little lad has had a number of scary things happen to him recently, so I think that is why he didn't want to write about scary things. It might be better to ask him to write about three happy things.

Will he talk to you about what happened to his mother? However kind and loving his dad, this child might benefit from some councelling from specialist councellors.

The charity Winston's Wish is a specialist charity for children who have suffered a bereavement. This is their website . They have a Helpline and offer specialist help for the children. You may find it very helpfull.

Nannytopsy Mon 16-Nov-20 23:16:09

Another ex teacher and SENCO here! I wonder if he might find non fiction writing less stressful? A project on a country, a group of animals or a science project perhaps? That way he doesn’t have to find the ideas within himself and can get information from books, internet etc. As someone else said, he could dictate to you until he is ready
Best wishes to both of you.

V3ra Mon 16-Nov-20 23:22:46

"Describe three scary settings" when he's already living in the worst one imaginable for a child?
What on earth was his class teacher thinking? Good grief.
If I were you I would have just left it, and I'd have suggested a bit more tact from his teacher in future.
It's not a topic I would want to write about, and I'm an adult and not tragically bereaved.
He's only 8, he's doing well at maths. He doesn't need pushing out of his comfort zone like this.

MissAdventure Mon 16-Nov-20 23:26:21

I actually agree with V3ra.