Dear Annie, My child lives in a fantasy world. She’s five years old and a very cute and adorable girl. I love her so much and treat her as a princess. She was fascinated at first by going to school. However, after a couple of months, she started hating school, and her teacher called us, saying that our daughter never responds and is always having daydreams. She even fabricates stories. Today her teacher called me, saying that my daughter told her that her father had been killed. I am a consultant and feel very stressed by this issue. Our daughter is very smart and brilliant.
She just doesn’t focus in school and keeps creating stories for “Miss” (the teacher). I feel hopeless. Please advise me on what to do and how to deal with her. I read all your articles but still couldn’t find a direct answer. Thanks Marwan
It’s so wonderful to see how much you obviously love your daughter. The fact that you say your child lives in a fantasy world, dislikes school, has daydreams, and creates untrue stories deserves a thoughtful evaluation. Probably the best way to accomplish this is to try and find the problem using a process of elimination. Because the problem started when she went to school, let’s start with the possible causes of her behaviour that have their origins in the school.
Ask yourself questions.
First, is she being bullied by students? Has a staff member taken a particular dislike to her? Is she being abused in any way, shape, or form? This is understandably a scary prospect, and I don’t know if it’s possible in your education system to have a friend whom you trust volunteer or observe what’s going on during her school day, particularly what’s going on in the playground. How do other students react to her? How does she cope in terms of socializing with other students? Has she experienced any physical symptoms like tummy aches or headaches that might indicate that she’s under stress at school? If none of the above fits, then perhaps we need to look at what preceded her school experience.
Examine what she’s getting out of these stories.
Sometimes the fantasy of school is more appealing than the reality. Lining up at the door, doing work, and having to obey rules can often cause children to “tune out.” If she had limited exposure to play groups or preschool, it’s possible that she built up a fantasy in her head that does not match what actually takes place in school. It’s not unusual for five-year-olds to have an active fantasy world, but the far-fetched stories could be a way for her to seek more attention.
Consider the typical reaction to a child who expresses the fact that their father has been killed. Well, shock for one, with some resulting extra attention paid to that child. Presuming that her father is alive and well, these stories may simply be an attention-getting device that puts the focus back on your daughter. If so, then that’s something that’s best handled through behavioural intervention.
Find what’s she’s good at and minimize the rest.
If you find there is an element of abuse, you will obviously have to approach the school authorities. If you’ve ruled out abuse, how do you deal with fantasy stories? Well, probably the best way is to focus her attention on the real world as much as you can. Find something that she does well. Does she have good writing? Can she read a bit? Can she draw well? Whatever you can find Give her lots of encouragement and positive feedback for it, and notice it on a daily basis, but be genuine. Offer lots of encouragement.
At the same time, ignore the stories. Listen, but not too closely. Move quickly to something real or tangible and direct her attention there. Let all the school staff know of the situation and ask them all to please behave in the same way. I am sure that her behaviour will change if her attention is constantly refocused and she succeeds outside in the “real” world as opposed to the one that lives in her imagination. I hope this helps you. For more help with your parenting, please visit my parenting services page.
Best of luck
Annie also writes for other blogs too. Here’s an article on potty issues and how to solve them.