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 in the beginning to go 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 day dreams. She even creates untrue 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 to the miss (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 she dislikes school, day dreams and creates untrue stories though deserves a thoughtful evaluation. Probably the best way to accomplish this is to try and find out the problem using a process of elimination. Because the problem started when she went to school so 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 undergoing stress at school? If none of the above fit, 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 often more appealing than the reality. Lining up at the door, doing work, 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.
You may want to ask yourself what the usual reaction is to a child who expresses that her father has died? Well, shock for one with resulting extra attention paid to that child. Presuming that her father is alive and well, these stories may simply be an attention getting device which 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 on quickly to something real/tangible and put her focus on that. 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.