I’m Worried about My Granddaughter Who Hasn’t Gone to School in 3 Years

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 60s. My granddaughter, who is currently in sixth grade, stopped going to school in the autumn of third grade, saying, “My battery has run out.” She’s a calm and kind girl, but it seems difficult for her to talk to others and she gets nervous.

When I ask her to study with me, she sometimes seems motivated, but that doesn’t last long. I keep waiting for her to take the initiative, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

The saving grace is that she attends dance class three times a week, and she shines during her performances. She also comes over three days a week to help take care of her 3-year-old cousin.

My granddaughter’s father — my daughter’s husband — died when she was 2 years old. My daughter must be incredibly anxious, but she has always been there for her daughter and works hard at her job.

I joined a group for parents who have children who do not attend school. There, I learned that I should trust them and wait. However, I’m at a loss every day because I don’t know if I should just leave things as they are.

— P, Yamanashi Prefecture

Dear Ms. P:

Grandparents tend to worry about their grandchildren, and even more so if your grandchild hasn’t attended school since third grade. Since she lost her father when she was 2 and her mom has been busy at work, you have probably often been both parental figures in your granddaughter’s life.

I imagine that’s why you’re so concerned about your granddaughter. But a child is still an independent person with their own thoughts and feelings. It’s not easy for them to change their behavior just because those around them try to force them to change.

That’s why the group advises parents to trust them and wait, so children can learn to think for themselves and find the strength to live.

Your granddaughter might not find it easy to talk to people, but she has the ability to communicate with others through dance. She’s also kind enough to help take care of her 3-year-old cousin. Her mother is there for her, and she also has a grandmother who looks out for her. These relationships are definitely providing valuable nourishment to help her grow.

Since you have found a group that has provided you with great advice, don’t panic and just watch over your granddaughter while talking to other members of the parents’ group.

— Yutaka Ono, psychiatrist