Sometimes, admitting you are unable to help someone actually helps them. It forces them to realize they have been butting their head against a brick wall and that brick wall has no intention of moving. Sometimes, knowing you cannot give someone what they need, and having the guts to tell them that serves as a catalyst. Instead of them continuing to look to you for solutions, they know you have none, and can move on to find their solutions elsewhere.
Here’s where I’m going with this…..
My son is 12 years old and has diagnosed GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). This disorder caused him (and me!) years of great distress while we attempted to successfully navigate him through the public school system. There were teachers who didn’t understand GAD, children who taunted him mercilessly for being sensitive and worrisome, and even teachers who flat out refused to assist him when he was finally able to find his voice and communicate what he needed. The phrase, “I don’t have time for your issues right now,” was actually uttered by a teacher to my son. I can almost feel my blood start to boil again just thinking about it!
But this post is not about the negative experiences we had, it is about the positive outcome that came from those negative experiences. Throughout his 5 years in the public school system we did encounter plenty of negatives, but we also encountered some wonderful people who went above and beyond to do what was best for him. Child and Youth Workers who met with him weekly to check in and help him develop tools and strategies to help alleviate the school anxiety, the amazing “Mama Bear”-type receptionist who was always available for a hug if he needed one, and the school principal, who should get a first-class ticket to heaven, in my opinion, who did everything in her power to ensure my son’s success in her school.
Unfortunately, her much-appreciated and tireless efforts were not enough for him. The school system he was in was failing him. Miserably. And she knew it. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like for her to realize that she could not help my son. That the school system could not help him. And yet, her coming to that realization and sharing it with me was the best thing that has ever happened to us. It was our catalyst. It was the realization we needed to force us to move in another direction. Away from that brick wall that had my forehead permanently implanted in it!
She called me. She told me that my son was a kind, caring, wonderful soul, who was not flourishing in his current environment, despite her best efforts. She suggested the possibility of a private, specialized education for him, in a smaller, more supportive environment.
As is my nature, I was on the internet within minutes, researching such schools in our area. I spoke with school directors, I attended school expos and open houses, I spoke with other parents, and I researched until there was nothing more to research. And when I had the schools narrowed down, I took my then 11-year-old son to an Open House. And my child, who had been so fearful of school and what it entailed for him that he had literally been unable to attend for 6 months in the previous year, and who would regularly be physically ill in the parking lot before school, that child…SKIPPED out of the Open House asking when he could start! I quite honestly cried with joy.
The new school has been a game changer for him. The anxiety still exists and he works hard every day to manage it. But the kind, caring, supportive environment has made all the difference for him. He can speak to a teacher when he feels anxious, his school friends understand his challenges and support him, he even has little cues he gives his teacher (like leaving his water bottle in a certain spot on his desk) that cues her to know that he has left the classroom for a walk to settle himself and will be back in 5 minutes. Simple, simple things. And yet they have made all the difference.
And so I am very thankful to the school principal who felt she could not help my son. Not because she couldn’t help him, but because she was not afraid to admit it. She pushed us in the right direction and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being strong enough to admit you couldn’t help us. It has been a most wonderful gift.
LazyGourmetBlog is a Grimsby, Ontario mom, navigating the daily struggles of a personal PTSD diagnosis, and the challenges of raising an almost-teenager with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. As a former professional ballroom dancer, her personal struggles with anxiety and PTSD have very often been hidden in plain sight, presenting their own unique challenges in this very public former profession. One of her favourite quotes is, "The journey is the goal," and that motto carries her through each day, learning, supporting, and carrying on.