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7 year old grandson, recently lost mother, refuses to learn to read and write

(56 Posts)
RoMo Tue 13-Aug-19 07:50:26

From the above you will see what I'm concerned about. My older grandson, 7 next week, lives in South America with his father and 2 year old brother. Their mother died three months ago and now the older one is 'acting out'. He had had previous problems, being bi-lingual, and his mother didn't engage with him or speak Spanish and therefore his language skills are not good. He understands everything and is fluent in English but not Spanish. He's had extra lessons but now refuses to even try to read and write and the school is concerned. Does anyone have any advice? We don't live in South America and visit them twice a year. Thanks in advance.

Elegran Tue 13-Aug-19 08:35:21

My advice would be to stop pushing him, and then he might stiop resisting. Give up on the reading and writing for a while, and concentrate instead on making him happier and less anxious. Poor little mite, his whole life has crashed around him, he is miserable and worried sick, he barely speaks or nderstands the language, but the grown-ups are just going on and on at him about words on a page for pity's sake!

Does his father have any letters from his mother, in the language he does understand, which he couid read out to him and let him keep in his own room? They would be a link with her to comfort him, and an incentive soon (not under duress!) to learn to read them himself.

BradfordLass72 Tue 13-Aug-19 08:35:29

The school should be a little more understanding and not load this 'problem' onto him with all the other burdens he has to carry.

He's traumatised is the poor wee boy (as must be his brother and Daddy) and needs comfort and love - forget the dratted learning for a while - he'll pick it up eventually.

Some countries don't even attempt to teach children to read or write until they are 7 or older.

When I read things like this, I just want to gather the little ones up and cuddle them - I'm sure you feel the same way.

So I'd advise you and his Dad, who has enough on his plate at the moment, to put the emphasis on making those little fellows feel safe, loved and secure.

Education can wait.

LullyDully Tue 13-Aug-19 08:35:56

I think he could benefit from some bereavement counselling. He probably will not learn to read if he is grieving. Poor boy must be very confused.

Don't they have English education in parts of South Africa? Does he need to be educated in Spanish? I may have got the wrong end of the stick.

BlueBelle Tue 13-Aug-19 08:38:16

My advice is simple Let him be love him, but let him sort it out in his own way and time lots of time, lots of patience needed the poor little chap has had a huge shock
My grandson lost his Dad when he was 6 and was in shock for a good time, while on the outside he seemed normal, almost naughty, a lot of the time he apparently sat under the table at school He’s 18 now and we sorting and threw away some school books the other week in a tidy up I found one that said ‘goals for the week’ I must try not to fight with blank and I must try not to sit under the table so much
He did have a little bit of counselling but mostly was his mums huge patience His sister was 4 and almost stopped eating she only ate noodles for about a year she’s a healthy intelligent 16 now
Give him time do NOT push him to read write talk or anything let him find his own time he may come to a halt for a while

Minniemoo Tue 13-Aug-19 08:40:57

I think time is what's needed here. The poor child has lost his mother. A traumatic event for us at any age but at 7 it's his whole world.

I don't think that you should be worrying too much about school and speaking Spanish at present. I'm sure it's going in, children tend to pick up languages a lot faster than adults.

Letters from you and maybe a gift box now and then to help him and give him something to look forward to?

Grief has many faces and this little man needs to work his way through the maze his own way.

wildswan16 Tue 13-Aug-19 08:43:08

Am I right in thinking that his education is conducted in Spanish, but that he speaks English at home with his father?

If I was his father I wouldn't care a button whether he was learning anything at the moment. I would care that he is clearly unhappy and needs time and space and lots of attention from dad. Pressuring him so soon after losing his mother is just adding another layer of anxiety.

Take him out of school if need be and let him just be a little boy for a while.

cornergran Tue 13-Aug-19 08:44:02

I’m saddened that the school staff don’t seem to understand that your grandson is grieving, he isn’t acting out, it’s a behavioural reaction to grief. Is there any grief counselling available for children in South America? You don’t say where the family are located but perhaps you could do some internet research for them? My apologies, I’m uncertain of the relationships. Is it your daughter in law who has died? Is other family local to them and supportive? A very sad time for them all. I’m so sorry for you all. .

aggie Tue 13-Aug-19 08:44:22

It is only three months ! He needs time to grieve and needs consoling , not badgering to learn something not associated with his Mother , he will come to it when his wee brain can take it in

MissAdventure Tue 13-Aug-19 08:53:04

Three months is absolutely nothing in terms of time.

Its positively cruel to be trying to make him do anything other than just 'be', and I'm amazed that those closest in his life can't understand that.
Poor little soul.

Anniebach Tue 13-Aug-19 09:06:07

Our daughters were 5 and 7 when their father died, the little
boy’s world has collapsed .

It will take much longer than three months for him to adjust to a world which must now be so frightening for him.

SirChenjin Tue 13-Aug-19 10:33:25

I agree with everyone else. It's been 3 months - getting a traumatised 7 year old writing in Spanish should be the very least of everyone's worries at the moment. Focus on supporting him emotionally instead - he probably feels like learning Spanish is life just forcing him to take another step away from his mum. What a heartbreaking situation for everyone. Counselling, support and time is what he needs, not a Spanish education - that will come in due course.

jaylucy Tue 13-Aug-19 10:47:15

Poor little lad. Maybe he feels that he is letting his mother down if he speaks and writes or reads in Spanish or that if he does so, it will mean that he has forgotten her?
Is there any way that you can explain to him that his mum would want him to do his best at school whatever the language he works in. Maybe there is somewhere he can go that is English speaking so he can still feel that connection that he is missing so much.

B9exchange Tue 13-Aug-19 10:54:39

I would second the need for bereavement counselling, for all the family. I hope that it is available in English in South America?

One book that our hospice recomments for young children is www.amazon.co.uk/Water-Bugs-Dragonfiles-Explaining-Children/dp/0829816240?tag=gransnetforum-21, perhaps you could send it out to him and the family read it together?

Madgran77 Tue 13-Aug-19 10:56:12

Reading and writing is not the priority for him and surprised the school is not more sensitive to that. Is he having bereavement counselling?

RoMo Tue 13-Aug-19 10:56:43

Many, many thanks all of you who have responded so far. It is very heartening to read what you say and to take on board your responses. His dad is doing all the work simply looking after them and working and is exhausted! I agree that the school should give him more time to grieve and not push their educational agenda onto him at this moment.

SirChenjin Tue 13-Aug-19 11:10:36

Would it be possible to go over and stay with them for a while to give your son a hand? It must be very difficult for them all at the moment.

Luckygirl Tue 13-Aug-19 11:13:54

Well the school can go and stew!! What must they be thinking of trying to get this poor young grieving lad to work at his reading!? He will get there when he is good and ready.

His Dad needs to speak to the school and tell them that he is not worried about son's academic progress at the moment as the lad has bigger fish to fry - i.e. getting over this major loss in his young life. He needs to say that he does not want him pushed at the moment, just treated gently.

Alexa Tue 13-Aug-19 12:09:13

Romo,I am sorry for the poor little boy. No child can learn to read unless the act of reading is associated with love and affection. Reading ability begins with the cosy situation of cuddling up with mother of father or suitable substitute, a situation in which the reading is incidental to the affection and safety.

The poor little boy is carrying a horrid burden of loss and has probably regressed to earlier needs.

Alexa Tue 13-Aug-19 12:14:18

He doesn't need "extra lessons" He needs physical cuddling , games, laughter and appreciation of what he is just right now.

What sort of teachers don't know this! It's elementary.

GagaJo Tue 13-Aug-19 12:22:36

Any teacher worth their salt should know about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Basically, no learning can take place until all the OTHER needs in the hierarchy have been met. Having his mother die will have affected his feeling safe and his need for love. It will be quite a while before his equilibrium returns. Obviously as a teacher, I know school is important, but it's not the be all and end all. I'd hope his teachers would understand and show him affection. He'll be desperate for it right now.

Callistemon Tue 13-Aug-19 12:24:38

Poor little mite! And his poor father and sibling too.

Could you go out there for a few weeks to give them some support? Or, at least, perhaps send some parcels or order him some things from you on the internet? Perhaps some simply written letters from you would be good.

I wonder if encouraging him to draw might be a good idea, perhaps he could express his feelings in drawing and painting.

It's not the little boy who needs to concentrate on his reading and writing, it's the school's attitude which needs to change. Or change schools to one which is not so rigid.

Nonnie Tue 13-Aug-19 13:00:21

Why doesn't the father speak Spanish? It must be very hard for the little chap. How does he play with friends? Children pick up language very easily from friends and that would seem to be a start. Maybe just taking him to a playground or other activity and leaving him to play with the other children would do him good.

I certainly think that putting any kind of pressure on him would be harmful.

wildswan16 Tue 13-Aug-19 13:52:32

It bothers me that people seem to think this little boy needs some sort of bereavement "counselling". Grief is a perfectly natural process. If he was still having difficulties in twelve months time then maybe it would be appropriate. Until then it should be allowed to take its own course.

He lost his mother only 12 weeks ago - he just needs lots of love and support which his father is hopefully able to provide.

RoMo Tue 13-Aug-19 13:57:03

Nonnie: His father is fluent in Spanish. My grandson's Spanish is good but not as good as his English! He has friends with whom he speaks Spanish. It's not as if he doesn't have the language - I think that maybe I expressed myself badly here. It's the fact that he doesn't want to learn to read and write - which would appear to be consequent to the emotional upheaval at home.