If you’re like most parents you’ve probably had to deal with days when the kids just don’t want to get out of bed and go to school. In some cases they may pretend to be sick, while at other times they might have a legitimate ailment. But it’s not always easy to tell which end of the spectrum they’re at, especially if they seem to fall somewhere in the middle. Still, it’s still your job as a parent to determine whether or not your child is too ill to attend school for the day. So how can you decide when to drag him out of bed and get him dressed and when to let him go back to sleep? Here are a few helpful hints that can serve as a barometer to your child’s state of health.
The first thing you should do is check for a fever. This is the one real absolute of illness; if a fever is present you have undeniable proof that something is wrong. Just don’t forget the scene in E.T. where Elliot holds his thermometer next to a light bulb to heat it up so he can get out of school for the day. Of course, there are other signs and symptoms that are fairly irrefutable, such as vomiting, congestion, or rashes (like chicken pox). But in lieu of these outstanding physical manifestations of illness you may have to find other tests to ascertain if your child is truly ill.
One simple strategy is to take away a fun activity. If your child has after-school activities that he loves, just let him know that staying home from school means he forfeits the right to attend the next session. Even if he’s not feeling great, he may be willing to muscle through the school day in order to have his fun later on. If he stays home anyway it could be a good indicator that he really isn’t feeling well. You could also tell him that you’re going to have to make a trip to the doctor to find out what’s wrong. For many kids this could be a big enough deterrent to motivate them to rise and shine.
Of course, some kids play sick in order to avoid something at school (a test, a bully, etc.). If you’re facing an ongoing situation where your child frequently begs to stay home, claiming a stomach ache, for example, it may be time to look into other potential causes of his “illness”. Try talking to teachers about what’s going on at school. You may find that your child is notoriously absent during exams or that he is having trouble with another child. At that point you can talk to him about the issue (and gently remind him of the boy who cried wolf).
At times you may wish you had access to healthcare informatics like they use in the hospital. But you’re just a parent like the rest of us, trying to do what’s best for your child. Sometimes kids just need a mental health day, so if yours is generally a good student, you might just want to give him a free pass once in a while. And of course, you don’t want to send him to school if he’s legitimately ill. But if you think he’s playing hooky by claiming illness, don’t let it slide. Get to the root of the issue and make it clear that pretending to be sick in order to skip school is simply not acceptable.