Tuesday, 1 October 2013

How Sick is Too Sick to Go to School?

It's that time of year again when kids go back to school and their noses get all boogery.  I know that one of the toughest questions that I face on a regular basis when September rolls in is:  Is my child sick enough to stay home from school today?  One of the first things to check is your child's temperature.  They can't fake that. If they have a fever then they shouldn't be going to school because they are most likely contagious...and don't we normally badmouth those parents who send their sick kids in to school to infect our child?

But what if they don't have a fever and they aren't mucus factories?  It's hard to tell if they are too sick to go to school. I came up with the perfect solution when my oldest son was in grade one.  It was flawless. It gave no wiggle room for doubt or guilt.  How often do we, as parents, come up with a solution that can work every single time, and with each and every one of our children?  Never!  Well, practically never, because I came up with this little gem.  I have to admit that its genius lied in its simplicity. 

We all know that kids hate to take their naps...at least until their teens (and then they can sleep the day away).  If a child claimed to be sick, and didn't have a fever I would ask the magical question:  "If you are too sick for school, and you want to stay home, will you take a nap in the morning AND in the afternoon?"  Inevitably if they weren't really that sick they wouldn't want to stay home and nap so they would go into school.  But if they really were feeling sick and tired and groddy, then they would stay home and take the required two naps.  When they arose for lunch they would have some Chicken Noodle soup and they would get to watch an hour or so of tv. They would head back to prison for their second nap when they were done.  I didn't make it loads of fun for them to stay home. I kept it relatively low-key.  How perfect is that?  

I do, however, have one exception to the rule.  Don't we, as adults, occasionally need a day off.  Aren't there those days when you just can't bear to go into work and you want to stay in bed and watch tv all day? or sit in the backyard and read a book?  You aren't sick, but you are sick of seeing your boss, co-workers or customers.  Sometimes, don't you just need a break?  I call these "Mental Health" days.  I allow my kids one Mental Health day per school year.  They don't have to provide an explanation, they just "call it."  I take advantage of these days, to spend the day talking about anything and everything with my child, in the hopes that they will reveal to me the reason they just couldn't go into school.  At times, they confide in me.  Sometimes they do not.  I understand that there are occasions when they just can't bear to talk about something with a parent, and then I try to make sure that if they can't talk to me, that they can find someone that they can talk to.

It turned out that these Mental Health days were extraordinarily important, because on two separate occasions I had found out that two of my children were each being bullied in their schools.  If they hadn't had the loophole of the Mental Health Day how much longer would they have put up with the bullying?  I count my lucky stars that my children were able to confide in me and we were able to bring it to the Principals' attention and have things turned around.  

Consequently if you have the Nap Time Method for determining if your child is too sick to go to school, as well as having the Mental Health Day option in place, you can cover all of your bases when it comes to a child not wanting to go to school.  The only problem is that this only works with kids up to grade 8.  After that, you are on your own.  You will have to trust your teen to tell you when they are too sick to go to school.