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Wobbles at Vocational School - a passing phase or serious concern ?


Ballet4Boyz
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I'm hoping for some words of wisdom I guess. 🙏🏼

Our DS is doing really well at vocational school, in year 8 and with a classical leaning. He has potential to do well if he continues to work hard as he always has done in the past. He loves his school, the teachers, the academic side and all his dance classes and achieves excellent feedback . He's a hard worker & conscientious. 

        He does however struggle with boarding - the noise, lack of privacy and the odd difficult character to deal with 24/7. He is a home bird, loves the tranquility of home and being with us as a family unit. He also likes the relative freedom of being at home compared with the more structured life at boarding ......... this including more access to the bloomin PlayStation & the various addictive games available. We have explained to him numerous times that when he's at home for holidays & exeat we tend to allow him time to relax & do "what he wants' a little bit more, due to life at vocational school being so demanding , regimented & tiring. We have also explained - if he were at a 'normal' school and living at home - we would be encouraging a lot more structure to his life in general in the time he would have Outwith school.

     The second problem he has is stage fright. He worries a lot about performing whether it be at open evenings, parents evenings right through to annual dance shows. Once feeling well rehearsed and actually performing - he loves it & the feeling it gives him to take part & perform.

     The boarding & stage fright is making him think twice about continuing with his training. He is not sure if this is what he wants. He seems to have lost the fire in his belly & his heart doesn't seem to be in it at the moment.

      As caring parents - we want him to be happy above all else, but do we let him give up and not take advantage of the talent he has . Is this just a passing teenage phase and could he be making the biggest mistake ? We will support him whatever and he says he needs time to think about what he wants. We also think he may be feeling guilty about the financial commitment we have already made !! 

     We know he loves dancing & has potential for the future ............ just so unsure how to advise him x

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........... should have added, he seems very up & down with it all at the moment and as parents we are wondering if he would be having the same feelings about whatever he may be doing at the moment - not just dance related ? Maybe other parents of similar aged children could be experiencing the same issues ? 

  It was only a few months ago he told us he couldn't imagine his life without dancing in it !!! 😪

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Both my children had an horrendous time in Year 8. (One vocational one at an academically selective school). The vocational one worked through the issues (a total meltdown during her ballet assessment & she lost her love of dance for a while) she was having & never looked back. The non vocational one ended up having to change schools. 

 

So whilst i do think that it’s just a very tough age when you have added complications (in our case asd in your case boarding) you have to go with your instinct. 

Edited by Picturesinthefirelight
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I'm in no way qualified to answer this question :), but I was wondering whether you could (and should) speak to someone at the school about this?  Assuming they've been running for some time, they will have seen hundreds of teenagers pass through their doors, and may well have a better overview of the situation, and how common it is, than you do.  Do they operate some sort of counselling service?  I'm assuming that no non-boarding option is possible?

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Only my opinion, as our problems surfaced much later, but if his emotional well being is being compromised by being away from home , maybe bring him home, let him continue to dance locally and with an associate programme and look to going away again at 16 ,when he will be more mature and possibly more in a position to know that this really is the life that he wants. Best of luck with it all.

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Julie W's son gave my DS some excellent advice on this, albeit his wobbles started a week into vocational school.  Write a list of the Pro's and Con's and then have a discussion from there.  Does he have an older mentor he can speak to?  

 

The only thing I would add - and what I didn't do - is review this on a regular, maybe termly basis.  And pick a neutral spot (again, JulieW's advice) for the discussion.

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Ah @Ballet4Boyz I really do hope you can sort this out, he really is a lovely dancer and would sadness sad.

I do think year 8 has been a really hard year there with one thing and the other, and hopefully when they get back all the show work they will be doing will light up his love again! 

My dd also gets really nervous before going on stage and I’m sure that is normal then once they do it they want to go back on. 

All we as parents have to do is to be there guide them and pick up all the pieces once it goes wrong x

fingers crossed for you and you lovely ds x

Edited by balletmum20
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My ds had a massive wobble due to teacher bullying and indeed lost the fire in yr8 at his vocational school... & there’s a thread on here if you want to read it. We took advice from people here and our gut instinct... in our case ...we listed pros and cons of leaving right now: leaving at October: etc This was very useful but also finding people both at school and outside to help with the underlying problem too... my ds stayed and he’s so pleased he did .even if in the future he decides to leave .. ..we have since watched many of his friends go through similar wobbles albeit for different reasons and indeed some have left as that was right for them...but take comfort that you are discussing the issue with yr son..I would only add take time to decide but review any descision regularly... Voc school is def not the only route to a happy fulfilled life with or without dancing!

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Thanks balletmum20  😊

                                         Yes he has been progressing really well with his dancing at vocational school and loves all his dance teachers. They would probably be surprised he's having this wobble. He feels physically sick in the run up to performing no matter how well rehearsed he is ..... and it can be for weeks beforehand , not just a few days prior. Nothing bad has ever happened on stage to make him feel this way, but he is a worrier in general & tends to overthink things. Like you say with your DD , having performed -  he is on a high and wants to get straight back on stage. We are presently on an Easter course and he says he feels pressure to perform well at the end as he's the only vocational boy on the course and feels like he will be judged. 

       We're hoping this will prove to be a phase that he'll work through with our support. We do feel he'd live to bitterly regret giving dancing up but at the same time if these feelings continue - we'll have to rethink everything . My own mother was a ballet dancer and suffered with her own serious mental health issues  -  he reminds me of her in so many ways, I'm very conscious of his mental well-being. We may well approach the school to see if they can suggest an older boy who could be someone he talks too and maybe the school could  help him with dealing with stage fright.

     It seems such a shame for him to be feeling this way when fundamentally he loves ballet/dancing and with continued hard work could have potential for a related career.  Xx

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  Thanks all again ,  it has really helped us to know we are not alone and that other DC have wobbles. The thrill and  privilege of attending these schools is wonderful and we are so grateful he has been given this opportunity . We think it's also important to discuss the realities of attending vocational schools - it is like we have often said  - not an easy journey at times . Thanks for everyone's support on here , my husband and I have felt a little lost with how to help him - but you have given us some good pointers to have these on-going discussions with him xx

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30 minutes ago, Ballet4Boyz said:

Thanks balletmum20  😊

                                         Yes he has been progressing really well with his dancing at vocational school and loves all his dance teachers. They would probably be surprised he's having this wobble. He feels physically sick in the run up to performing no matter how well rehearsed he is ..... and it can be for weeks beforehand , not just a few days prior. Nothing bad has ever happened on stage to make him feel this way, but he is a worrier in general & tends to overthink things. Like you say with your DD , having performed -  he is on a high and wants to get straight back on stage. We are presently on an Easter course and he says he feels pressure to perform well at the end as he's the only vocational boy on the course and feels like he will be judged. 

       We're hoping this will prove to be a phase that he'll work through with our support. We do feel he'd live to bitterly regret giving dancing up but at the same time if these feelings continue - we'll have to rethink everything . My own mother was a ballet dancer and suffered with her own serious mental health issues  -  he reminds me of her in so many ways, I'm very conscious of his mental well-being. We may well approach the school to see if they can suggest an older boy who could be someone he talks too and maybe the school could  help him with dealing with stage fright.

     It seems such a shame for him to be feeling this way when fundamentally he loves ballet/dancing and with continued hard work could have potential for a related career.  Xx

 

My husband had terrible stage fright at college and it did in part scupper his performing career.  I remember seeing him hyperventilate on stage once.  He is now, however a very sucesful vocational teacher and often presents to other teachers at events.  I will ask him if he has any advice/techniques to help.

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BalletBoyz - I think this is very common. I agree that you need a list of pros and cons and review them - some may change, some not.

 

Our experience has been heavily influenced by the relationship with the main ballet teacher and if the relationship is not good it really affects everything. So that could potentially change next year.

 

Boarding is unlikely to change - always noisy and chaotic. I think my dc is in the same boarding house as yours and I think the quality of supervision has been severely affected by the high staff turnover this year.

 

Definitely speak to head of boarding who is very experienced. However in our recent experience it is easy for a child to hide what is really going on from the staff.

 

Good luck - a tricky situation. 

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Our DS struggled massively last year due to teacher bullying but always maintained he wanted to stay and always enjoyed performing. I think what stands out in your posts though is the amount of pressure he feels under. I would be very concerned about this. Some children just aren’t ready for/able to cope with that and it can seriously affect their mental health. DS struggles with the boarding house and personality clashes (maybe the same school?) at times but loves the school enough to outweigh any difficulties. Pros and cons list would be useful and perhaps arrange for him to see a counsellor to discuss the issues with someone neutral? 

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24 minutes ago, Farawaydancer said:

Our DS struggled massively last year due to teacher bullying but always maintained he wanted to stay and always enjoyed performing. I think what stands out in your posts though is the amount of pressure he feels under. I would be very concerned about this. Some children just aren’t ready for/able to cope with that and it can seriously affect their mental health. DS struggles with the boarding house and personality clashes (maybe the same school?) at times but loves the school enough to outweigh any difficulties. Pros and cons list would be useful and perhaps arrange for him to see a counsellor to discuss the issues with someone neutral? 

 

I remember reading some of your posts about your Ds & it’s a different school. 

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I don't have a child who dances, but my son at his normal High School went through a bad time around Year 8. It passed, thankfully, but I think whether boarding or not, a huge part of it is just the age. As others have said, your son's happiness and well- being is more important than anything else. As for the stage fright; tell him it is perfectly normal to be nervous about performing in front of people, or even the thought of performing even when it is weeks ahead. He needs to assess for himself which is the stronger; the love of dance or the fear of being on stage. If he HAS to dance, as if his life depended on it and cannot imagine wanting to do anything else with his life, then he will find a way to overcome the stage fright. It might take some time, but he will get there, with yours and his school's support. 

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1 hour ago, Farawaydancer said:

Our DS struggled massively last year due to teacher bullying but always maintained he wanted to stay and always enjoyed performing. I think what stands out in your posts though is the amount of pressure he feels under. I would be very concerned about this.

 

    Thankfully our DS hasn't had any such problem with any teacher at his school. That sounds just awful - your DS must be very strong & resilient to have coped with that . I know our DS would really struggle with teacher bullying as I think he & all DC at the end of the day wish to please their teachers. Well done to your DS & glad to hear he's managed to work through his problems 👏🏻👏🏻

You're totally right when you say our son may feel under enormous pressure ...... he does , but it's pressure he puts on himself as he's very self critical . He used to watch some of his performances back on DVDs etc - but now refuses & cringes when they are put on - only because he finds constant  fault with his technique or performance etc. 

Hooefully this is just a combination of his age & a bit of self doubt creeping in and questioning what the future holds. 

 

Would just add - he's just returned after a day's hard dancing ......... and loved it !! ........ totally different mind set again !!

He's so up & down - and we as parents are going up & down with him 

.......... where's the wine !!

Thanks everyone x 

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I think I have mentioned this before on other thread related to stress but don't underestimate the positive benefit to your DS of offloading all his complaints, fears, doubts etc onto you and thereby being able to let them go. Hence the roller coaster effect. My daughter does this to me on a biannual basis (she's quite a calm person in general) and has done since the age of about 7 or 8 (she's now 19). It took me a while to catch on - in the early years I spent so many nights awake and in a complete panic that her entire life was terrible and how could I not have realised only to have her get up next morning completely chirpy and not mention a single worry for another 6 months.  Now even she says quite matter of factly 'I think I'm due another meltdown Mum I haven't had one in quite a while'...

 

I also remember my younger brother driving my mum mad when he was on his university exchange year in California, skyping her every few weeks with a litany of how ghastly it was (no friends, mad landlady, couldn't do any of the work, hated the states, run out of money etc). Since coming home he has always said it was the best time he's ever had, he made fabulous friends and he got the equivalent of a first for the academic year. 

 

I suppose what i'm trying to say is that sometimes kids use parents like their 'Dorian Gray' to offload all the stress or explore in some ways the things they fear but which may never come to pass. It doesn't surprise me at all that he can tell you one day how awful/stressful it is and the next day say he had the best time ever- the one enables the other (if that makes sense).

 

Of course this is not always true I'm not trying to downplay your DS's concerns or troubles and it is always a matter of degree. My DS also found boarding very hard especially the lack of space and VERY difficult room mates.

 

You will be the best judge of whether this is a deal breaking amount of stress or a need to offload which enables him to then carry on. 

 

Good luck, it is hard...

 

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7 hours ago, Picturesinthefirelight said:

My husband advises with regards to the stage fright that he just has to keep on getting up & doing it no matter how awful it feels. The more you do that the easier it becomes. He now gets up in front of large groups of people to present his work so it is possible to overcome. 

Totally agree with this. My d had horrendous stage fright that almost made her give up - but she knew that if she 'let it win' by stopping doing solos that would have been it. She was extremely lucky to have a very supportive teacher who taught her breathing exercises to help calm her. Bach rescue remedies also worth trying.

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8 hours ago, CeliB said:

I suppose what i'm trying to say is that sometimes kids use parents like their 'Dorian Gray' to offload all the stress or explore in some ways the things they fear but which may never come to pass. It doesn't surprise me at all that he can tell you one day how awful/stressful it is and the next day say he had the best time ever- the one enables the other (if that makes sense).

 

 I’m coming to that conclusion CeliB. I’m aware our DS has had a couple of mini panic attacks at school where he has gone to the toilets and splashed his face with water .... and the feelings have passed !! I also know a high up member of staff is aware & has been/continues to be excellent support for our DS - so it has been recognised by the school as well. 

I think our DS is a worrier and always probably will be . 

We had a really good conversation last night and it boils down to the constant pressure he feels under.

academic, Lamda, musical theatre, RAD exams, dance assessments, rehearsals for shows & performing in shows and then boarding with certain difficult personality types.

At times he says he feels completely overwhelmed as he wants to do the best he can in everything. 

He loves the school, says he finds it hard but DOES wish to continue as his love of dancing is worth it. 

We will continue to watch over him, talk with him & assess things regularly. I think as parents we will need to accept his need to off load & realise this may just be how his journey proceeds ....... for as long as he wishes xx

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11 hours ago, CeliB said:

 

 

I suppose what i'm trying to say is that sometimes kids use parents like their 'Dorian Gray' to offload all the stress or explore in some ways the things they fear but which may never come to pass. It doesn't surprise me at all that he can tell you one day how awful/stressful it is and the next day say he had the best time ever- the one enables the other (if that makes sense).

 

Of course this is not always true I'm not trying to downplay your DS's concerns or troubles and it is always a matter of degree. My DS also found boarding very hard especially the lack of space and VERY difficult room mates.

 

You will be the best judge of whether this is a deal breaking amount of stress or a need to offload which enables him to then carry on. 

 

Good luck, it is hard...

 

This is so true - and it doesn't stop.  There was a time during his first year abroad  when I used to dread my son phoning, and was actually really upset that I felt like that, because I could feel a physical weight pressing down on me as all his worries and unhappiness flowed down the phone line.  I can't afford to pop out and see him every month, and just felt so helpless.

 

I always remind myself that it's better than the time I didn't know he was so unhappy he was trying to run away on a weekly (possibly daily) basis.  

 

My musical D says her friends think it's hilarious that we are in contact most days, they try to get away with once a week.  But a quick silly email (the otter fluffing kept us going for quite some time) just keeps the channels open.   I think those who haven't found boarding difficult at some time are very blessed, but I suspect their reward comes as they move out into the world (or even to Uni) and have an arsenal of experience to draw upon.  Also, as your son moves through the school they will get more freedom and space from each other, and it all becomes easier to deal with.  

 

If the school are aware and supportive you are half way there.

 

 

 

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I think this thread has also highlighted that even when a DC is fundamentally happy with the school , dance training , teachers and academics coupled with actually doing well & achieving goals - it isn’t easy - it can be fabulous at times, stressful & challenging at other times . This is compounded I think by boarding and that feeling of no escape !! 

Useful for other parents & DC to know that everyone struggles from time to time .....even if appearances would never suggest it.

Yesterday - all we felt as parents was everything going pear shaped, a subdued son who was expressing serious doubt about continuing. Why was he feeling like this despite doing so well with great reports & loving dancing ??

The posts on here have really helped us to look at things from different perspectives which led to a really open discussion with him. We now understand the reasons why he’s feeling this way - even he feels it just simply a bit of a “bump in the road” and that it’s something he wants to work through.

Thank you to all the forum members Xx

 

  

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Oh this rings so true to me. I am definitely my ds sounding board and sometimes I find it incredibly stressful as I think the worst but the next couple days all is fine.  But I have to be alert to the fact that there may be a serious issue.  The best thing is that at least they are talking to us! The boarding situation can be very difficult as there really is no escape - ds always desperate to get home but equally happy to go back at the end of a holiday. 

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