Last year I was convinced that Eldest Son was hormonal and that puberty had hit us age 12. He was bad tempered, moany, grumpy and uncooperative. Doors were slamming and little brother sometimes came off worse in a ‘play’ fight.
Then we had the summer holidays and I had a different son. He and his brother got on brilliantly for the whole 7 weeks with no big rows and very few small ones. He was good company; funny, helpful and kind. He did what I asked with good grace and even offered to help. He was responsible and thoughtful and I really enjoyed his company.
- How were your school holidays?
- Did you notice a difference in behaviour?
As I reflected, I concluded that the other behaviour can’t have been down to hormones or it would have continued in the holidays. The only thing I could put it down to is term time stress.
Within 2 days of the new term starting the old grumpy behaviours re-emerged and haven’t really gone away. So I was convinced it’s stress. Not stress from being bullied or from exams any major crisis; he just finds school stressful. When I’ve checked out my emergent theory with other parents, they have said the same; lovely kids in the holiday – grumpy, uncooperative argumentative kids during term time.
- Did you notice a change when they went back to school?
- What did you put it down to?
What are we doing to our kids???? Something has to be wrong for them to be stressed so young. As a teacher I see kids getting stressed over exams but I have never realised that just being in school each day is stressful. Now I think about it I can see why.
Bells ringing, rushing between lessons, a different teacher every hour, a different set of expectations, a different set of things to learn. I know ES doesn’t eat properly in school as there is such a rush for the food and I have seen this in schools; the rush for the tuck queue and the faces of the kids who come too late when there is nothing to eat.
Then there is the constant monitoring of uniform, of exercise books, of behaviour, or movement about school. ES lives for football at lunchtimes and breaks and so comes in hyped and sweaty from them and is meant to settle to work immediately without a drink or a rest as he would at home. Then the rush for the bus, the jostling for seats and the ‘banter’ which sometimes goes too far on the way home.
That’s without all the peer group stuff that goes on; do you look right, do you say the right things, listen to the right music, watch the right TV? Are you in or out? Dodge the tough kids but don’t be scared of them. Put up with your classmates who you have to work in pairs with and don’t like.
And lessons – work in silence (even if you learn through talking). Discuss and groups (even if you learn best in silence). Read aloud (even if you can’t), finish this work (even if it means you have to rush and you like to take your time and make it perfect).
I don’t have the answers for what schools can do differently; they all try their best. How can 1 teacher meet the needs of 30 pupils?
So all I can do is change things at home. I’ve cut back the things I used to do when we get home from school so I can pay full attention to the kids and help with homework. We have 2 nights of clubs and the other nights we do nothing; we hang out. I feed them as soon as they get in as I know they haven’t eaten properly. I let them have 20 minutes screen time each when they get in to wind down. I’m also monitoring my own stress levels and not over committing as I know the combination of me being stressed and him is not a good one. Just knowing that it’s stress rather than hormones helps me manage my responses and support with ES.
- What can you do to relieve stress at home?
I haven’t got it right, but it is better and I will keep tweaking. I’m not sure what else I can do but it makes me sad that 39 out of 52 weeks a year my son is stressed; I don’t want him to be grow up thinking that stress is ‘normal’. It also makes me sad because I know that if he wasn’t so stressed he would do so much better and be so much happier which after all , is what we want for our kids isn’t it?