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#1 Pen

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 12:29 PM

We are having troubles with what seems to be a negative loop, where 

 

anxiety

leads to avoidance / procrastination

leads to more anxiety / depression

 

 

Example: Anxiety leads to not doing homework (ds started into brick and mortar school and is now a 15yo 9th grader) till last minute or beyond. This creates stress, depression, more anxiety, and less good performance, which leads to more anxiety...

 

 

 

How can I help my 15yo ds break this cycle?  

 

Last year he saw a professional therapist, which only led to some temporary escapism / feel-good ploys, but did not help to address the underlying problem.  (Therapist said to me, "if a 15yo refuses to do anything, there is not much that can be done."  which seemed dumb to me given that we had gone to her because he himself wanted some help, but not from me, his mom.)

 

Also, a problem exists with dealing with things once they are have gotten behind. Not going into helplessness and giving up. Ds does not have this problem with athletics (though he prefers to take a lead and keep it in a race, he can also start behind and then start picking up steam for a final sprint), but does with academics and some other areas of life.

 

I myself have similar problems, and so am not the best to have answers to this.  But maybe I could help, if I got some answers for myself, to model better approaches.

 

This weekend I got ds to do his geometry homework (which I thought was his only homework) on Friday. I tried to get him to put in some more study time over weekend, but he refused.

 

Last night it turned out, revealed at 10PMish, that he had science homework too.  Which he had not mentioned because he didn't know how to do it.  He showed it to me, and it turned out the "how to do it" directions were right there with the assignment if only he could relax enough to see that.

 

By then though everyone was tired. And ds was feeling hopeless and catastrophizing about much beyond the one assignment.  

 

This morning he got up at 5:30AM (his own idea), and, the science homework did get done with some help from me. So he sort of emerged from downcast dejection and hopelessness. But the rapid attack on the homework to get it done before rushing off to school is not a good plan for mastery.

 

 

This was only week one. We need a better plan!

 

 In theory, I know, and I think he does too, the idea of setting a time to study/do homework, and doing it.  But. It. Is. Not. Happening.

 

In reality, there seems to be anxiety almost to the point of shut down, like when looking for an important document and being so nervous one goes right past it in the file without seeing it--if you have ever had, as I have, that experience.

 

 

 

His other learning challenges are dyslexia / dysgraphia, and some ADHD (no diagnosis)  and sensory seeking type behavior.  PTSD and some EF issues.

 

 



#2 OhElizabeth

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 02:43 PM

Sometimes they have to suffer a bit till they decide they want tools. As far as what tools, mindfulness, tech, meds...

 

I'm really liking Mighteor for my ds. Not terribly expensive as things go ($229 with the Zones20 promo code) and 10 minutes a day is sort of a software driven jolt of mindfulness to help calm him.

 

You could hire an EF coach or get him supports at the school. 

 

But really, like with my dd, she has to want to use the tools. I can offer them, but she also has to flounder a bit and realize she wants them.


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#3 mc26

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 03:19 PM

Very interested in responses.  My almost 15 yo DS is in the same cycle.  I have no idea what to do.  


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#4 wapiti

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 03:42 PM

I can describe what I did recently (which is not a lot) but I imagine that my ds14 is in a different place now with his medical background than other kids, so whatever I say is likely to be inapplicable to your situation or someone else's - perhaps for others, all manner of supports (tools, medical, whatever) would need to be in place first.  I don't think my kiddo has EF issues, or at least not anymore.  He is a big procrastinator, always has been.  He reached a point last week, on his first day back after his sinus surgery, of utter exhaustion.  He had a very long day with a club meeting after school, etc.  I think what happened is that he hadn't slept the night before (from a stuffy nose) and not much in the preceding days and then finally around 10 pm, he got to looking at his homework and realized that he just couldn't do it.  He curled up on his bed in tears.  I felt bad but he had been home for 4-5 hours and hadn't done any of it (instead:  videos, computer games).

 

I have been talking about the six P's, proper prior planning prevents poor performance, and left a post-it note on his computer with those words.  We have gone over and over that he needs to get to bed at a decent time (say 10 or 11) in order to have a better morning.  And then we consider how much time before that it will take to get the homework done and so what time he should start at, assuming a little break after school.  And I have been repeating the term "personal responsibility."  He hit rock bottom with exhaustion and learned the hard way.  I hope.  We shall see.  But, he has had the importance of high school grades drilled into him and I have not yet gotten his Canvas login info, so I have not been checking on his grades except for one time where I had him show me.  In other words, I've been trying to let him be responsible for himself.  That is really hard.  I'm not yet at the point where I'm ready to have him get detention for being late (which is what would happen if he were to fail to get into the car in time for the bus with his siblings), so I haven't figured that part out.  But I think he's slowly learning that getting his homework done a little earlier than the wee hours has its benefits in the form of sleep.


Edited by wapiti, 11 September 2017 - 03:44 PM.

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#5 Lecka

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 04:56 PM

I think it matters if this is new behavior or if it is more pronounced behavior he has already been having.

If it is new with this school year -- maybe he will figure it out himself. Really. He could. He might not take after you so much. He might need to have a natural consequence and learn from his actions.

If it is something that has been going on and now it is getting worse, or if his behavior of upset just says something to you as a mom, then I think you can look at anxiety or executive functioning. Part of executive functioning can be a hard time starting things. Or anxiety. And they can ramp each other up.

Any chance of a different counselor? The last one sounds not so great. I think since he expressed last year he would like help from another adult, looking for that could be good. Maybe look for Skype or phone if there aren't options in your area.

And if it is recommended I hear of good things wrt anxiety medicine. I have heard a few people say it gets their kids to a place where they can use their tools. They still have to use their tools but they CAN use them. Just what I have heard from 3-4 parents.

Good luck! It sounds very stressful! I hope he can get in a good routine.

Edited by Lecka, 11 September 2017 - 04:58 PM.

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#6 Mainer

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 06:00 PM

My husband does this. He waits till the last minute to do things because he doesn't "want to waste" the weekend working when he could be relaxing. I don't get how he can relax while he's got a mountain of work to do, but it's how he thinks. Right now he's freaking out because he has to write a bunch of lectures, correct homework and write two exams. Even though he had the weekend... but he didn't want to "waste" it with work.

 

Sigh. I hope you find something that works for your son. I'll be listening in intently!


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#7 EKS

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 07:36 PM

I would have a meeting with him immediately after school about exactly what he has to do for homework. Be sure to include any long term projects.  Together, I'd come up with a plan to get the work done.  Then I would sit in the same room with him while he does it.

 

The idea here is not for you to be actively engaged in his homework night after night for all four years of high school.  But it sounds like he could use some help adjusting to school.  Once he gets more of a handle on things, you can back off.


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#8 Pen

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:29 AM

It was better today.

 

He mostly initiated making it better.

 

But one day may be a fluke.  Will report again tomorrow.  and better yet see if there can be a good whole week.

 

Especially challenging this week due to 2 XC meets.


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#9 Lecka

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:49 AM

I think the XC will also really help him desire to keep his grades up. At this time of year, it can take very few missed assignments to get a low average.

Do you think he understands how hard it is to make up a zero? I have had to have talks with my older son about how if he can get something turned in, even if "maybe" it will get a lower grade, that is much better than getting a zero. He really didn't understand that when he first started getting letter grades. I have gone over his sylllabus with him too so the grading thing seems less mysterious.

It is the kind of thing nobody ever needed to explain to me, but it took my son time to pick up. And then he was getting zeros and then when he had a low grade he thought he was just a bad student, he didn't understand it was from getting zeros. (And most of his zeros would be on things where he had done 80% of the work and then somehow lost track of it and missed getting it turned in.).

Edited by Lecka, 12 September 2017 - 12:52 AM.

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#10 Lecka

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 12:57 AM

Also if overall things are better but he still has some trial and error and makes mistakes -- that is maybe still going to happen. Try to look at an overall trend. And really try not to let him get behind! He should check his grades online to see if he has any missing work, too. I think there is an attitude sometimes that teachers expect kids to check on things like that since they have the computer access. It is another thing where maybe nobody is going to directly say that to him, but yet it is what they are expecting.
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#11 Targhee

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Posted 12 September 2017 - 03:10 PM

My husband does this. He waits till the last minute to do things because he doesn't "want to waste" the weekend working when he could be relaxing. I don't get how he can relax while he's got a mountain of work to do, but it's how he thinks. Right now he's freaking out because he has to write a bunch of lectures, correct homework and write two exams. Even though he had the weekend... but he didn't want to "waste" it with work.

Sigh. I hope you find something that works for your son. I'll be listening in intently!


This sounds a lot like me and my own dh. It can be difficult when the task at hand affects us both (something like preparing for a road trip, or working with a designer on house plans...). He can't engage and is annoyed, thinking me a real nag or a heel, if I push for my way, and I feel abandoned to do the work alone or feel irritable and unable to relax because it isn't complete if he pushes for his way.

OP, I think you described a cycle that is familiar to many. I have two who struggle with anxiety, also EFs (especially time and materials management), ADHD, and fixed mindsets (probably because they are 2e, and even though we tried to emphasize work and effort they grew accustomed to things coming naturally to them while young). My oldest shared this video with me, care of her honors English teacher no less (grrr...).

https://www.ted.com/..._procrastinator

I had a talk with DD about how the Instant-gratification Monkey gets in line when Panic Monster comes out for *some* people. But others feel so overwhelmed by the Panic Monster that the Rational Thinker crumples into a heap, and the whole ship comes to a screeching halt. I also tried to emphasize that the longer the antics of the Instant Gratification Monkey last the larger the size of the Panic Monster. I don't know, I think it helped a little bit. It also helped for me to acknowledge that her Instant Gratification Monkey is pretty strong, and the she opperates in a different way than I do (more like her dad).

So, I am walking the line of lending appropriate levels of support. We are finding the balance together. For example, she has an essay due in English that is overwhelming her. She was given a week to do it, and very few parameters by the teacher. I have been willing to give her as much help as she asks for, but I am trying not to manage the assignment. I try to ask leading questions, and see if she comes along (things like "I know you said you have physics homework due later this week, so how is your research for English coming?" In the hopes she will recognize the need to manage time). I also ask questions when she starts to get anxious, to help her think rationally. I guess I don't have an answer, but to say that you are not alone, and neither is your student. That procrastinators can be successful, but they will reach success sooner if their procrastination style is worked with rather than fought against. Best wishes to you both.
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#12 Pen

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 12:27 PM

I think it matters if this is new behavior or if it is more pronounced behavior he has already been having.

 

Ongoing, but more pronounced this year. 
...
If it is something that has been going on and now it is getting worse, or if his behavior of upset just says something to you as a mom, then I think you can look at anxiety or executive functioning. Part of executive functioning can be a hard time starting things. Or anxiety. And they can ramp each other up.

 

Yes, I think they ramp each other up.

Any chance of a different counselor?

 

I'm looking for one.

...

And if it is recommended I hear of good things wrt anxiety medicine. I have heard a few people say it gets their kids to a place where they can use their tools. They still have to use their tools but they CAN use them. Just what I have heard from 3-4 parents.

 

DS does better if he will take certain supplements (esp fish oil) and vitamins (esp B3 and other B vits) consistently, and also with managed eating. At 15 though it is hard to get him to do take his supplements and he eats stuff that tends to add over time to the problem at school or at stops with the other XCers.

 

 

 

I think the XC will also really help him desire to keep his grades up. At this time of year, it can take very few missed assignments to get a low average.

Do you think he understands how hard it is to make up a zero? I have had to have talks with my older son about how if he can get something turned in, even if "maybe" it will get a lower grade, that is much better than getting a zero. He really didn't understand that when he first started getting letter grades. I have gone over his sylllabus with him too so the grading thing seems less mysterious.

 

We went through that last year a lot.  He'd get a bunch of 100% on things he did and turned in. Then he'd get a bunch of 0% on things not done, or not turned in. Averaged together to 50% that was an F. Intellectually he certainly understands it. I don't know if it is understood in an incorporated into his approach to life way though.

It is the kind of thing nobody ever needed to explain to me, but it took my son time to pick up. And then he was getting zeros and then when he had a low grade he thought he was just a bad student, he didn't understand it was from getting zeros. (And most of his zeros would be on things where he had done 80% of the work and then somehow lost track of it and missed getting it turned in.).

 

 

Also if overall things are better but he still has some trial and error and makes mistakes -- that is maybe still going to happen. Try to look at an overall trend. And really try not to let him get behind! He should check his grades online to see if he has any missing work, too. I think there is an attitude sometimes that teachers expect kids to check on things like that since they have the computer access. It is another thing where maybe nobody is going to directly say that to him, but yet it is what they are expecting.

 

 

Last year, the online info only had things listed after they were due. I tried a bunch of things to get info on what was due when earlier, to no avail.

 

This year at least his geometry teacher has assignments posted on the wall of the classroom near the door, so it is relatively easy to check that. A couple of the class info packets he brought home indicated what there would be--so pretty much an expectation of daily Spanish and English, where if he says there isn't anything, that is probably incorrect.

 

Again last night, after it seeming like everything was done, it turned out that there is an English assignment due Friday, and not yet begun--with today's time lost to an XC meet that they leave for at lunch and are not expected back from till around 10PM.

 

I have been so far not very successful (read, totally a failure :) ) in explaining that when a teacher assigns an assignment with a due date several days or longer in future, it is because she/he expects the assignment to take more than just one homework session to complete.  



#13 Pen

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 01:01 PM

It is helpful to know that my ds and I are not alone in this!

 

 

Very interested in responses.  My almost 15 yo DS is in the same cycle.  I have no idea what to do.  

 

I have 2 other related threads for more possible ideas: http://forums.welltr...rocrastination/  and one on the middle and high school challenges area, which if you are interested, OneStep could tell you how to join.

 

 

...

I have been talking about the six P's, proper prior planning prevents poor performance, and left a post-it note on his computer with those words.  We have gone over and over that he needs to get to bed at a decent time (say 10 or 11) in order to have a better morning.  And then we consider how much time before that it will take to get the homework done and so what time he should start at, assuming a little break after school.  And I have been repeating the term "personal responsibility."  He hit rock bottom with exhaustion and learned the hard way.  I hope.  We shall see.  But, he has had the importance of high school grades drilled into him and I have not yet gotten his Canvas login info, so I have not been checking on his grades except for one time where I had him show me.  In other words, I've been trying to let him be responsible for himself.  That is really hard.  I'm not yet at the point where I'm ready to have him get detention for being late (which is what would happen if he were to fail to get into the car in time for the bus with his siblings), so I haven't figured that part out.  But I think he's slowly learning that getting his homework done a little earlier than the wee hours has its benefits in the form of sleep.

 

I'm looking for more positive ways to phrase these things, now that I realize primary issue = anxiety  ( rather than, not caring).  

 

Proper prior planning promotes ________  performance.  (Primo? prideworthy? positive?)

 

That high school grades matter is likely making him more anxious, and not in a way that leads to more doing, just more stewing, or more avoiding.

 

Getting to bus on time is generally not a problem for my ds, though there is a tremendous amount of morning flurry, rush and more anxiety that could be prevented by packing up most needed stuff the previous day.

 

I would have a meeting with him immediately after school about exactly what he has to do for homework. Be sure to include any long term projects.  Together, I'd come up with a plan to get the work done.  Then I would sit in the same room with him while he does it.

 

The idea here is not for you to be actively engaged in his homework night after night for all four years of high school.  But it sounds like he could use some help adjusting to school.  Once he gets more of a handle on things, you can back off.

 

 

I tried to implement this yesterday. At 1st ds told me not to bug/nag him. Then when I talked about something else, he decided to tell me what he had to do (save for longer term assignments). Then, he actually did them! First thing before going off on his bike.  

 

And he was much brighter and happier seeming. So if he can recognize (or also if I can help him recognize) it, there is a major, clear to me, reward in his own feeling of happiness rather than anxiety or depression. It is like 2 different boys. One is a somber, downcast, unresponsive or irritable boy. The other is a cheerful, lighthearted, upbeat boy.

 

 

OP, I think you described a cycle that is familiar to many. I have two who struggle with anxiety, also EFs (especially time and materials management), ADHD, and fixed mindsets (probably because they are 2e, and even though we tried to emphasize work and effort they grew accustomed to things coming naturally to them while young). My oldest shared this video with me, care of her honors English teacher no less (grrr...).

https://www.ted.com/..._procrastinator

I had a talk with DD about how the Instant-gratification Monkey gets in line when Panic Monster comes out for *some* people. But others feel so overwhelmed by the Panic Monster that the Rational Thinker crumples into a heap, and the whole ship comes to a screeching halt. I also tried to emphasize that the longer the antics of the Instant Gratification Monkey last the larger the size of the Panic Monster. I don't know, I think it helped a little bit. It also helped for me to acknowledge that her Instant Gratification Monkey is pretty strong, and the she opperates in a different way than I do (more like her dad).

So, I am walking the line of lending appropriate levels of support. We are finding the balance together. For example, she has an essay due in English that is overwhelming her. She was given a week to do it, and very few parameters by the teacher. I have been willing to give her as much help as she asks for, but I am trying not to manage the assignment. I try to ask leading questions, and see if she comes along (things like "I know you said you have physics homework due later this week, so how is your research for English coming?" In the hopes she will recognize the need to manage time). I also ask questions when she starts to get anxious, to help her think rationally. I guess I don't have an answer, but to say that you are not alone, and neither is your student. That procrastinators can be successful, but they will reach success sooner if their procrastination style is worked with rather than fought against. Best wishes to you both.

 

 

Excellent video. I will share it with ds and your ideas too.

 

I like the leading questions idea that you put above.

 

Could you give me an example of leading qn for the bolded?


Edited by Pen, 13 September 2017 - 02:08 PM.

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#14 Lecka

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Posted 13 September 2017 - 03:32 PM

A rational question can be like -- "I know your teacher said this is a really big deal, but do you think she just wants child x and y to make sure they do it?" He does understand that there are other kids who don't take things as seriously, so the teacher may say something but it doesn't mean he needs to think it is the end of the world.

He gets into "my teacher said this is a really big deal" mode but he can also reason out of it.

Or if something seems really big, I can ask him to compare it to something he has done before.

Sometimes he will say things as if he thinks his teachers are mean people. Like -- it would only make sense for his teacher to react in the way my son imagines if they were mean people. So I have asked things like "I think you said before you liked this teacher, so it doesn't seem like the teacher would be really mean over a minor mistake you are concerned about."

Also we can talk about what teachers want. Teachers want kids to learn and to make progress. Even if he is worse than other kids, the teacher can be happy for him to learn and make progress. My parents are both teachers and would like for poorer students to improve as much as for excellent students to improve. That is kind of a worst case scenario. If a teacher is really mean he won't care what the teacher thinks the same way. He hasn't had an abusive mean teacher but he has had teachers he didn't have any rapport with... only for a teacher for a class he had 45 minutes a day, though, at this point.

Edited by Lecka, 13 September 2017 - 03:34 PM.

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