When your Teen is unhappy at High School

As parents we can start out with firm ideas and beliefs about what our children should do once they leave school, and what they should study and choose as a career. But what happens when your teenager is unhappy or struggling when they are in high school ?

“In the last two weeks of every term my son gets suspended, he is always in trouble at school and he is only in year 9”.
I listen carefully to a familiar conversation with my hairdresser while she cuts my hair.
“He goes to work in the evenings and he does everything he is asked without question, but if I ask him to do anything he refuses”.
I feel her anguish but after coming through the teenage journey with most of our own children, and my experience as a teacher, I understand too well that the push on this journey by many parents could see the scales tip and many hard years of possible rebellion ahead.

Is your teen waking up everyday and faking sickness, getting in trouble at school on purpose or lying about having done their school work?
Finding out your child isn’t doing their school work and has been lying to you about it with the same skill as a secret agent in an action movie can come as a major shock to many parents. Self blame and possibly anger may follow, but before you lose your temper you need to take a step back.

There can be many reasons your child may be trying everything possible not to attend high school.
It is very possible your child’s high school journey is not as they envisioned for themselves.
High school is a very different journey from primary school, with 1 in 6 young Australians currently experiencing an Anxiety condition(Beyond Blue).

Are they being bullied, teased, or are they feeling like they just don’t fit in?

Many people associate bullying as being physical. The signs are not always easy to read and are often missed by many. “But my child hasn’t said anything to me about it?!” you’re thinking. Many young people are too scared to speak up or tell because of the threat of repeated bullying or the bullying getting worse is frightening, or the embarrassment that they feel could be overwhelming. If your child has become quiet, withdrawn or their moods are very different then it may be a sign they are being bullied. Letting them know you are there to listen without judgement by establishing regular conversation and spending time together can help develop trust that it’s okay to talk.

Are they struggling in a particular subject and too afraid to ask for assistance, fearing teasing from their peers or looking like they are dumb?

Let’s face it, no one likes to be made to feel like they are dumb in front of their peers. Not knowing the content or facts makes it hard to actively participate in subject learning. Fear of being caught out that they don’t understand the subject can lead to skipping classes, and the longer time goes on the harder it is to own up and ask for help leading to the assumption that children are being rebellious or lazy. There may be a way for your child to catch up on content without their peers knowing so that they can save face, by having extra study periods. Talking to the subject teacher discreetly can help figure out the best option.

Are they bored and not challenged enough with their current curriculum?

Last years teacher reviewed the same content and are reviewing it again because 1/2 the class didn’t understand it, but what about the children that do?
Repeatedly doing this can lead to major frustration, and let’s face it, do we ourselves enrol in the same course twice unless we didn’t understand the content?
It’s time to make a meeting with the teacher and discuss alternatives such as changing classes or your child having different content.

Do they just want to get a job and work?

For some children the purpose of school starts to become irrelevant in their eyes as they go through high school. They are just counting down the days until they can get a job and earn money. There is nothing wrong with this but it can make getting your child to school difficult.
Many schools have programs that offer Vocational Education where students master work skills or traineeships.

The most important part is to keep the lines of communication open and try and remember that although your dream may be to have a doctor, electrician or news presenter in the family it may not be your child’s dream, or at least not their current dream.