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Help! My Daughter Refuses to Go to School Because the Fire Drills Scare Her! What Can I Do?

Dear Dr. Irene,

I have three children, and my youngest daughter, Sandra, 5, is in kindergarten. The school has had a number of fire drills over the past year. Last week on Monday, one of the teachers was doing a cooking project in the hallway, which set off the fire alarm. The whole school had to evacuate. On Thursday morning, Sandra was so afraid that the school might burn down that she started crying and shaking. I tried to calm her fears, but ended up letting her stay home that day. I don’t want this fear to get any worse. How do you think I should handle this situation?

Thank you, Dr. Irene.


Rose, Los Angeles

Dear Rose:

Well, Rose, you sound like a good mother! You intuitively did the right thing. You took seriously her fear and you gave her the chance to recover from it. When you are 5 years old, one day of missing school is not a tragedy. I assume she did go to school the next day, armed with your explanations and reassurances. Don’t you make too much of this. Do continue reassuring her — but make sure she goes to school. The important thing is you responded appropriately to her degree of stress. If there are other similar or related responses, you ought to look at what underlying stresses are in her environment. If not, relax — everybody has a bad day, even five-year olds!

Good Luck! Dr. Irene

Read on for Dr. Irene’s advice for how to deal with a husband who refuses to celebrate his wife’s birthday and Mother’s Day.


Dear Dr. Irene,

We just “celebrated” Mother’s day and, once again, all I want to do is cry. Except for my first Mother’s Day (a celebration arranged by a friend), they’ve all been a disaster.

I’ve tried to be clear on what would make me happy –brunch. All I want to do is go out to brunch with my husband and seven-year old. I started telling him two months ago. He even asked about it earlier this week, and I told him again. So what happened today? He gave me a nice card. Oh, and made the bed. That’s it. Nothing more. Overall he is a loving, sweet and dependable husband and father. But I don’t know what to do about this.

My birthday the last couple of years has been the same way. We’ve even gone to marriage counseling about it — he says nothings wrong, he’s just bad about these things (he certainly wasn’t “bad about these things” before we married). His promises to “make up for it” aren’t followed through — he even promised the therapist to do something (given specifics and a
timeline) and it didn’t happen. This passive-aggressive act is really getting to me, and affecting our marriage.

What am I doing wrong?

Thanks Dr. Irene,

Tony Mom

Dear Tony Mom:

Let’s start out by the fact that you like your husband. He’s loving, sweet and dependable – both as a husband and as a father. A keeper! You’ve tried to change his behavior and it didn’t work, so now let’s consider changing your expectations. As lots of women will tell you, they see this kind of behavior from their husbands. Some deal with it by announcing, “I saw such and such and I’m going to buy it for my birthday and we’ll say it’s from you.” Not an entirely romantic way of getting what you need, but certainly this option doesn’t involve returns to the store. The other is just to change your expectations. There are certain people – more often, but not only, men — who don’t get the gift thing altogether. Remember that every marriage is about compromise. Also remember that he made the bed! And if you expect that behavior, you won’t be disappointed.

If indeed, this is a passive-aggressive way of dealing with you and you think he’s sending you another kind of message, i.e. “Don’t tell me what to do”, then it needs to be worked out. Maybe the two of you need to go back to the therapist’s office.

Good Luck! Dr. Irene

Modern Mom’s new family therapy expert Dr. Irene Goldenberg is a family psychologist and the author of several textbooks on family therapy, including Family
Therapy: An Overview, and Counseling Today’s Families. Dr. Irene is also a UCLA professor emeritus of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. To check out Dr. Irene’s books, go to amazon.com. Got a question for Dr. Irene? Email her at drirene@modernmom.com

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