What to Do if Your Child Says They're Sick to Stay Home from School?

If your child tells you that they're sick in order to stay home from school, before getting angry, ask yourself why they're lying.
What to Do if Your Child Says They're Sick to Stay Home from School?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 18 May, 2023

“It’s always the same story when you have to go to school,” “when it’s time to play, go to grandma’s, or be with your friends, you feel just fine,” and so on. These are the kind of endless claims or ideas that cross your mind when you discover that your child’s claiming to be sick in order to stay home from school. Sometimes they’re trying to avoid punishment at school, sometimes they do it because they didn’t finish homework, and sometimes they just feel like watching TV all day. 

However, they may also have deeper reasons that they don’t know how to share. So, we have to remember that it’s more important to understand why they want to stay home from school rather than simply trying to get them to stop.

What can you do if your child lies in order to stay home from school?

In this situation that has already taken place several times, the best thing to do is to keep calm and try to get to the bottom of the situation. Here are some tips to keep in mind if your child says they’re sick in order to stay home from school.

Don’t get angry

First of all, try not to get angry and avoid assuming that you’re child’s just being deceptive. Discovering that your child told you a lie can serve as a sign that perhaps something’s wrong and that they can’t find another way to express it. Imagine that perhaps they have a classmate who hits them every day during recess, but they’re too ashamed to say so because they feel silly not knowing how to defend themself. In a case like this, you’ll surely want to support them instead of reprimanding them.

A little girl who's opening up to her mom about a difficult subject.
Encouraging dialogue with your child is essential so that they can express themself with confidence and expose the reasons that led them to lie in order to stay home from school. It’s key to listen to your child in order to help them.

Encourage dialogue

It’s key to approach your child and try to create a space for dialogue, a space for them to express themself and ask what’s happening and how you can help them. It’s important to validate their emotions and feelings, as well as to let them know that they don’t have to be ashamed for feeling one way or another.

Inquire about the causes

In general, lies have a cause, so it’s best to try to understand what’s at the bottom of them in order to help. Sometimes children even lie because they believe they’re doing their parents a favor. They may also do so as a way to get attention and affection.

Invite them to think about their responsibilities

Help them think about responsibilities and their consequences. Some will be more serious and others less so, but your child needs to recognize that they’re responsible for their actions and what happens if they don’t fulfill their obligations.

Don’t blow things out of proportion

Ignoring the act isn’t an option, but it’s also important that we can assess the seriousness of the lie. In other words, an isolated event is one thing, while a recurrent situation is quite another. Furthermore, a “white lie” isn’t the same thing as a lie that causes harm to someone. In any case, try to reinforce that lying isn’t the best way to achieve our goals. Then, you’ll have to choose which measure is the most appropriate according to the case.

Be careful with your reactions

When your child’s sincere and you hear things you don’t like, avoid reacting poorly. Otherwise, you’ll only give them the message that even if they tell the truth, your response will be negative.

A mother scolding her young duaghter, who's sitting on the floor crying.
Speaking out of anger closes the door to any possibility of understanding the situation in its entirety. In addition, it’s important to avoid police-style questioning and to foster a climate of trust.

Other tips to keep in mind when your child lies in order to stay home from school

Some other tips that can be helpful in dealing with a lie, such as when your child tells you they’re sick to stay home from school, are as follows:

  • When talking to your child, avoid police-style questioning. This doesn’t usually generate a climate of empathy or trust that encourages your child to be honest. It’s important to allow them to express themselves without interruptions and to tell the situation as they experience it.
  • Whatever the measure we decide to take, it’s important that none of them threaten their self-esteem. Telling them that they’re useless, irresponsible, or a hopeless case is far from being educational.
  • To encourage them to tell the truth, it’s important to point out that no one’s perfect and that many times, people behave inappropriately. They should know that they’re not the only ones who do this, although that doesn’t make it right. It’s important for them to understand that sincerity is a very important value, even if it’s sometimes difficult to put into practice.
  • Look for different resources to teach them not to lie and leave them positive values. Depending on their age, you can do it through stories or activities, or directly through dialogue.
  • Think with your child about what could have been done differently instead of lying. This way, you can consider other scenarios for the next time. For example, if your child tells you that they’re sick so that they can stay home from school because they didn’t do their homework, you can explore with them what they could have done to get the homework done on time.

Set the right example for your child

Finally, besides reflecting on what to do with our children, it’s also important to make do some self-reflection and think about the behavior we have and that we adults transmit to them. In other words, review your own parenting practices. For example, if they always see you making excuses or lying to avoid visiting a relative, they’ll do the same when they want to avoid some kind of commitment. Worse still, if you make them part of your lies and ask them to be the ones to answer the phone and say that you’re not available, you’re teaching them that it’s okay to be dishonest.

Good behaviors are learned at home and from the observation of reference figures. Therefore, you need to be careful. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be surprised if your child tells you that they’re sick in order to stay home from school.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.