At school, the child is bad: what to do?
There are so many schools of modern psychology that parents are involuntarily lost: which one to choose? At the Genesis Conference # PRO approach, authoritative specialists from various therapeutic areas told how they would build work with a specific request – the child refuses to go to a prestigious school, citing the fact that peers are not interesting to him, but teachers are fools.
Read about the principles of work in CBT methods, gestalt therapy and the Adlerian approach.
How does a systematic family approach work with such a case?
Psychologist Alla Chugueva tells
Even if one person comes for a consultation, a systemic family psychotherapist works with the whole family, and this is the main difference between the approach. First of all, I will ask for information about the family. Does the child have a dad? Are parents living together or are they divorced? Who else is involved in the family system, what is the kindred environment?
Meeting with the whole family is the best option. But in our realities it is not always possible to collect all. Therefore, a mother with a child, father, mother, child, and finally, one mother can come – this is normal, we will take all these cases into work.
The main ideas of our approach are as follows: the system is larger than the sum of its elements, the system has its own laws by which it lives. When everything is stable in the family, we say that it is in homeostasis, which any system ultimately strives for. But there is a paradox: at the same time, the system also strives for development. And since development occurs through a crisis, changes, the system begins to resist them. It is at this critical moment that people usually turn to a psychologist.
So, mom talks about the problem (we call it a “symptom”): poor school or a child’s unwillingness to go to school. We do not investigate the question of why the child is not studying well or does not want to go to school (this is Mom who will tell). We will ask ourselves how long this situation lasts. Obviously, poor schooling is part of family homeostasis. This is a dysfunctional situation that somehow maintains stability in the family. And we need to find out how different family members relate to this problem, to whom and what bonuses, benefits does it promise?
How is poor child learning involved in family homeostasis? As an option, it helps marital contact and emotional closeness.
For example, a triangle might have formed in the family: the child’s problem forces mom and dad to talk as often as possible. Maybe if there weren’t these problems with studies, they would have nothing to discuss. We also explore what rules work in this family system, study the boundaries of the family and the myths that pass from generation to generation. For example, the myths “in our family are all excellent students” and “without higher education life will turn into hell” can increase anxiety and prevent parents from picking up a child from a prestigious school, where they may be humiliated by classmates or teachers do not behave adequately.
We look at what stage of development this family is. Perhaps another child was born, and therefore the boy does not have enough contact with his mother. Or maybe his older teenage brother is behaving antisocially: he skips school, smokes, drinks, and the younger one focuses on the older one and takes an example from him.
Having received enough complete information about the family, we can build hypotheses that explain how poor child learning is involved in family homeostasis. As an option, it helps marital contact and emotional closeness. Or allows all generations of the family to unite and show warmth, attention, care for each other. Or maybe the child is so signaling that he is going through a difficult divorce of his parents. Or gets the mother’s missing attention after her sister’s birth.
Depending on which of the hypotheses turns out to be the most reliable, we will choose one or another way of working. We use different techniques and methods: emotionally focused therapy, working with subpersonalities, communication trainings, homework, game techniques – to change dysfunctional, unhealthy interactions in the family into safe and functional.
The most unexpected is that we do not work with the symptom with which the client initially came: “the child is a poor student and does not want to go to school.” We will not study the child at all and look for ways to send him to school. We will work with others – with the contact of the spouses, the relationship of the child and parents, communication of brothers and sisters, family myths and family history. And already as this family system improves, the symptom (poor study) will disappear by itself. This is the paradox of systemic family therapy.
How does intermodal therapy with expressive arts work with such a case?
Narrated by psychologist Varvara Sidorova
There are many areas of art therapy, some were created on the basis of dance, others were painting or music … Our direction, intermodal therapy with expressive art (expressive art therapy), suggests using different types of art and smooth transitions between them in one session, as this corresponds to human nature. After all, all these abilities: to hear, to see, to move – are integrated in us.
I suppose that in the territory of art the client can feel a little more relaxed than at a reception from a psychologist in any other direction. There is no need to correspond to anything, no need to think. Art is an “embracing space”, it accepts anything, all experiences, all roles.
I do not ask clients to be artists. I ask them only to be attentive and sensitive. For example, I ask you to draw a line. And then I propose to see the image in this line. Someone will have a snake, someone will have a road or a rocket soaring up. And then I propose to come up with a story about this rocket or snake. And through the creation of something new, other meanings are born.
Any problem is some kind of dead end, stagnation. Game and creativity provide an opportunity to look at the situation from a different angle, to see new perspectives. And to transfer the experience gained in the territory of art into real life.
So, back to the given case. Mom comes without a child, tells how he feels bad at school. No friends, teachers are fools. What exactly will I do?
First of all, listen to the client, showing sincere curiosity, empathy, and asking clarifying questions. I am really interested to know: the boy has no friends at all – or only at school? Have you been before? Classmates do not like – what, absolutely everything? Fool teachers – whose opinion is this, who thinks so?
It may turn out that it’s not so important, a new school or an old one, but you need to spend more time with your child
I will definitely support my mother in that she is doing well, and also in the fact that she seeks help. And then I will pay attention to her movements, the images that arise in her speech, posture, breathing, voice. And maybe she will say: “I am clamped by this decision, like in a box, I feel that I can’t move” or, on the contrary, “I am stretched like a rope, from two sides”. And this will be familiar to me: I will offer her to move to the territory of art.
“How is it? Can you draw or portray with your body, the pose that you are like a rope stretched? How do you feel this tightness? ”And here is the choice of art tools. I have an easel in my office, a table for dirty work, tools, boxes with clay … I suggest that the client choose the materials himself. But we do not stay on research in one modality. We can start with a pose and then move on to the drawing. Or vice versa.
It is as if we are dancing around this problem, gaining new experience in the territory of art. And at the same time, we are investigating what is happening now in the body, in drawing, in consciousness, in the reality of the client.
Leave my son at this school or transfer to a new one? It is clear that we need to open this duality, to remove the issue that puts a person at a standstill, paralyzes. I can offer my mother to find a place, a point in the room where she imagines that the child remained at school. He stands there and listens to his feelings: what is she like here? Look at the world from this point. “Oh, a heavy sensation in the body arises.”
Then, let’s say, I’ll propose: “What will happen if you stand here now?” Feel how it will be if you moved to a new school. What is changing? Now find a new point, look from there at these decisions. What do you feel? Is the third option possible? ”
When the tension is removed, it may turn out that it is not so important, a new school or an old one, but you need to spend more time with the child, to support him. Or maybe you should write him in some kind of circle where he had wanted for a long time, or hire tutors.
As a result, the client leaves me with a new vision of perspective. Even if this is not a literal answer to the question “stay or go,” but something completely different, for example, about why I do not trust my child, a person feels that everything is fine, he will cope with the situation, find a way out.
How does existential analysis work with such a case?
Psychologist Svetlana Krivtsova tells
Existential therapy is aimed at enhancing the free, personal in a person. To help the client to find within himself the resources that will allow him to more clearly see the essence of the problem situation, evaluate it, take some position based on his assessment, make a decision. And to begin with, an existential analyst must see an incoming person openly and impartially. Not through the prism of a theory, but from within its subjectivity. Understand what a person sees and thinks about what is happening.
We do not wonder if it is possible to trust what the client is telling. We are interested in what his internal logic is, how he came to it, from what experience his vision was formed, what he considers “for granted”?
The life of each of us is embroidered with patterns from different “for granted”, and sometimes filled with strong emotions! It seems to us that something can never be, “it always has been”, it cannot be otherwise. Therefore, when two people meet, a mother and a son, two classmates and so on, with different “for granted” about the same situation, conflicts arise. Both are absolutely sure that they are right, it is difficult for both to question their point of view.
Fool teachers, uninteresting classmates – how did this become a picture of the boy’s world, which made him come to this conclusion? Therefore, if possible, the existential analyst will first speak peacefully with his mother, then with the child in a position that can be described as “not suspecting anyone of anything”, to trust everyone and try to understand.
In general, the task of an existential analyst is to help an adult client distinguish this concrete “pattern” of the contents of his inner world from the general background of his life, bring him to a distance and analyze it.
Perhaps in the process of this work, I will suggest mom to try to understand how she came to the deep conviction that you can go to school only if you study well in all subjects. Where did she get this? Or some other installation with which she lives and which, of course, passes to her son.
The result of a good existential analysis is a more balanced fair assessment of what is happening.
When all this becomes visible to the person himself, he can do something about it. Clarify your attitude, take some position. This woman may say: “Actually, yes, it looks like my dad’s setting. But now I understand that he is not right in everything. And now I, as a free, adult, can admit that it’s not about grades and stop worrying about this. ”
In our work, we open to the client this gap of freedom: to do differently with what is in it.
The idea of free in man is very important in an existential approach. Each of us has the opportunity to make decisions. We do not choose whether to come to this world. We are not asked in which family we want to be born. In addition, anything can happen to any of us at any moment. But the more freedom a person shows in these limited and disturbing circumstances, surrendering openly and fearlessly to them, the more deep and full of life he lives. The word “existence”, in fact, means a really good, deep life.
Someone with spiritual trepidation meets difficulties, joins in the problems of his son, and then something turns out, becomes clear, you just have to enter this situation. And someone lives with a closed heart, with the message “just don’t touch me”, doesn’t want to feel anything, but continues to demand something from life, from children – and this is not a situation in which he can find any meaning .
The meaning is only in the case when the client says: “What is, that is. Here I have such a child, he has such classmates and such teachers. And he does not want to go to school. What can I, his mother, do in these circumstances? To understand, having talked with him, what demotivates the most, what is the most painful? ”
Typically, categorical statements “all”, “nobody”, “never” hide a very specific conflict. And you need to help the child resolve it, but do not do for him what he can do himself. For example, a son may even suffer a little while reflecting on, for example, why classmates do not choose him. Of course, if the mother does not have this resource, a psychologist will help her.
The result of a good existential analysis is clarity, a more balanced fair assessment of what is happening and a calm, but firm position on what is right to do to make things a little better. After the consultation, the mother usually feels calmer, because she was understood, not so helpless, because something became clear to her. Thanks to this, she can feel more determined to do something.
The material was prepared based on the results of the conference “# PRO approach: different psychological schools in one space”, organized by the Genesis Publishing House in October 2019.