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You Asked, We Answered: February 2024

What do I do when my child doesn’t want to get up?

The hunkering down of kids in their rooms is a common story, especially when school and social anxiety are in the mix. Many parents grapple with what role to play, how hard to push or how laid back to be without crossing unhealthy lines.

You will see common threads in answers to many questions we receive, in part because there is not a different approach for each situation that is a magic fix. We encourage parents to look at situations like these from three angles: preventatively, in the moment and after the fact.

Here are a few thoughts to get you started in each area when your child doesn’t want to get up.


  • Develop an understanding about the value placed on education and achievement through your own childhood and what aspects of that you bring into your own parenting.
  • Take an intimate look at your own thoughts and feelings that these moments stir for you so you know what is bubbling beneath the surface before you are supporting your child in-the-moment (fear of failure, feeling hopeless or helpless, afraid of judgment, belief that if they can’t face school they won’t make it in life etc.)
  • Do all you can to get a peak at what is happening beneath the surface for your child—is it academic or social related; are you coming off of a long weekend with a child who tends to struggle with transition; what other internal or external events contributed to this behavior in the past for your child? If your child has moments in which they are communicative with you, ask them if they have insight into what has been hard for them about getting up and into the day.
  • Prepare with some awareness, when you have any insight that not getting up might be in your future, try to name it in advance with your child, such as by saying, “Hey, tomorrow is Sunday and we have a couple of things to do. How late do you want to sleep in so we can try to balance the coziness of bed with your ability to get up and engage with the world?” Or, “Hey, I know Tuesdays after a long weekend it can be tough to motivate yourself to get up and I am happy to give a couple of wake up calls and make breakfast while you wrestle with your willingness to get your butt up. Anything else I can do to help?”
  • If there is a pattern of staying in bed, whether it is on a school day or not, be prepared a parents with a predictable approach such as, “You have been staying in bed the last couple of days and, if tomorrow is another day that is hard to get up we are going to force you to take a break from having technology access until you can push yourself back into a rhythm of getting up and engaging.”
  • In this vein, get clear about what natural consequences you are or are not prepared to allow for. If they are missing school, there will be natural consequences. If you are not ready for them to face those challenges, then you can enact parent-driven consequences. A parent-driven structure example: Set up phone rules that require them to hand their phone/device in at night and not get it back until they are leaving for school in the morning.

In the Moment:

  • Be clear what you are happy and willing to do and what you are not happy or willing to do. You can offer a couple of wake up calls, bring them their meds and make breakfast. You can lie down on the floor or in the bed beside them and ask with genuine compassion, “Is today really going to be hard enough that it is worth staying in bed?”. Maybe allow for silence if that is the response and then remove yourself from the room and do what you need to do for the morning without going in and out of the room multiple times.
  • If it is a school day you can ask, “What do you need to do to be late for school (if this is an option) or miss school and still stay on top of your work so that missing today doesn’t drag your mood down further by putting you behind?”
  • If it is a weekend and there is nothing going on that is needed, maybe let your child stay in bed, ideally without devices, because they might just need to recuperate.

After the Fact:

  • If your child eventually got up and went to school, even if late, see that as a win, even if it was a bit of a pain for your day. When you are together in the afternoon evening try to say, “Hey, you did it today. Nicely done.” You don’t need to ask how they will make it happen tomorrow or examine what it was that helped them, just notice it out loud. At a time when things are calm, consider asking, “what has made it hard to get up lately?” You will likely get an “I don’t know” or one word avoidance answer (age appropriate) and you can respond with, “Well, if you figure it out and want to talk or brainstorm how to deal with it, I am happy to help.”
  • If it seems like there are academic or social anxieties they are avoiding, identify a safe place at school where they can try to reset — a nurse’s office, a guidance counselor etc. and talk to them about options.
  • If a pattern starts to emerge, it might be time for outside support, with a mentor or therapist. If there is a trusted coach or friend who could offer time to walk and talk with your child, see if you can set it up. If there is a professional mentor, therapist or other mental health professional on board, it might be time to encourage your child to see them a bit more frequently in the short term in order to try to beat the obstacles they are facing.

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