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Why does my daughter always pretend she’s too sick to go to school?
Q: My 7-year-old daughter has lately been saying that she’s sick and doesn’t want to go to school. I think she’s fibbing about this, but I can’t get her to confess to what is really going on. Should I try to speak to her teacher or just wait and see if this works out by itself? I don’t want her to get behind in school, and I want her to be able to face her problems rather than try to run away.
A: Definitely talk to her teacher, and the sooner, the better. Other children, or one individual child, might be picking on her or frightening her. The work may be a bit over her head, and “being sick” represents an attempt to avoid admitting that she is having trouble. Also, when you talk to her teacher, you will be able to get a better idea of whether she is pushing your daughter too much, ignoring her or in some other way making school an unpleasant experience for her.

You don’t mention how long it has been since her pediatrician has been seen her, but a current checkup would seem to be in order. After you have done this, unless you find out that there is some physical reason why she claims to be sick, I would get her to school regardless. Say something like, “There are times when we all have to do things even if we don’t feel 100 percent. Sometimes I have to get dinner ready when I would rather go to bed. But unless I’m really sick, I go ahead and cook anyway.”

Whatever you do, don’t let her stay home unless you have convincing evidence that she is really sick. If she does stay home, don’t fill the day with special privileges. Also, without appearing to pry, ask her casually (maybe at bedtime), “Did anything interesting happen at school today?” Perhaps follow up with, “Whom did you eat lunch with?” You may get an outpouring report that no one wants to sit by her at lunch or play with her at recess. If so, you then have something to go on as you pursue it further.