Learn why your child pretends to be sick and how to encourage him to have a love for school.
You’re rushing through the morning preparations for school when your little girl complains, “My tummy hurts, mommy. I can’t go to school today.” You allow her to stay at home. An hour barely passes when you notice your little girl happily romping around the room. When you ask if she’s feeling better, she sheepishly admits, “My tummy really wasn’t hurting, Mommy. I just didn’t want to go to school.”
There are various reasons why a child might fake being sick in order to avoid school. The challenge is to find the reason in order to determine the best way to help him love school again. We suggest asking your child specific questions. Your child may find it difficult to express himself so by providing specific questions, you’ll be able to help him spill out the true cause. If your child doesn’t open up, you can ask the people around him — his siblings, teachers, friends, even the bus driver. It’s important to lend a listening ear and remain patient as he shares with you the real reason.
Reason # 1: School bullies
One of the most common reasons is a scary bully a child wants to avoid at all costs. A bully is someone who embarrasses him or hurts him physically or emotionally. When a child cannot stand up to a bully, he can develop low self-esteem, depression and other problems.
What to do: Intervention may be necessary. Talk to your teacher or your school’s principal. Learn about your school’s policies on bullying. Explain to your child that bullies thrive on attention and it’s always best to try to act indifferent and walk away.
Reason # 2: Fear of teachers
Strict teachers can scare some kids because of their demanding tone and no-nonsense attitude. Children do not find the freedom to express themselves when teachers are too strict so they choose to stay at home instead where it’s safe to speak out. Kids with incomplete homework also want to avoid facing the wrath of their teachers.
What to do: Get your child to share the reasons why she considers her teacher to be scary. Perhaps he scolded her in front of her classmates? If the teacher seems to be truly unfair, schedule a meeting so you can discuss the situation with him. Make sure you prepare by having specific examples ready. Most often, the teacher doesn’t realize the effect of his strict approach until someone brings it to his attention. Just ensure that you remain calm and positive throughout the discussion.
Reason # 3: Difficult lessons
Grueling math problems, challenging spelling words and arduous science projects can dampen a child’s enthusiasm for school unless proper support is provided. Kids who do not find this support tend to feel frustrated and dislike going to school. They also desire to stay at home to avoid tough tests.
What to do: Sit down with your child and help her with the lessons. Perhaps more practice exercises will do the trick. You can opt to hire a tutor to help your child get back on track. Provide him with a quiet study area so he can focus. Be sure to praise him for small victories and cheer him on to help strengthen his self-confidence.
Reason # 4: Conflict with classmates
A tiff with a friend or perhaps a clique that closed its doors on your child can bring disappointment. When a child does not feel she belongs, she will opt to stay at home rather than feel alone and lonely in school.
What to do: Talk to her and find out what happened. Assure her that there are a lot of other friends and cliques that will appreciate her. Sometimes it just takes a while to repair broken friendships. Most of the time, this situation is temporary and she’ll learn to develop new friendships along the way.
Reason # 5: Family problems
A deep sadness stemming from a death in the family can be a reason a child wants to stay at home. When parents are fighting or a mom is being abused, a child can subconsciously desire to stay to help protect a parent from the other.
What to do: Lend a listening ear and help your child open up and share his feelings. Consider getting outside help such as a family counselor or a trusted relative who can provide guidance in dealing with sensitive and difficult issues.
Reason # 6: He’s missing his parents
Working parents constantly struggle to balance family and work. Long hours spent at the office and commuting tend to leave their kids craving for time with mom and dad.
What to do: Strive to come home early once in a while. Bring your child to school on your way to work. Treat weekends as sacred time for family. It’s important to make sure that you are able to spend quality time with your children.
Reason # 7: It’s more fun at home
Video games and the latest toys can be an enormous temptation for kids to stay at home. Cartoon shows and computer time are additional attractive enticements as well.
What to do: Point out specific examples showing that school is fun too. Help them recall the joy of learning and the fun time spent with friends. Remind them also that attending school is their responsibility.
Reason # 8: He’s too tired
Children can be stressed out with too many school and after-school activities.
What to do: Double check your children’s schedule. Perhaps you can identify extra-curricular activities that can be cut out. If homework is too much, schedule a talk with your child’s teacher. Make sure your child gets enough sleep. A grade school student still needs at least nine hours of sleep each night.