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Is Your Kid Playing “Hooky” Again? Or Are They Really Sick This Time?

Sick Kid
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Is my Kid really sick this time, or is he faking it?  Not like he would ever fake being iill so he could skip school…Heavens No.  Not my perfect angel.

It’s Friday.  My son wakes up with a headache….Again!  His stomach begins to turn.  He thinks he has a fever…He just can’t bear to get out of bed, have breakfast, brush his teeth and get dressed. I ask the question…”Do you think you need to stay home today?” He fires back…. “I don’t know.  What do you think?” Leaving me with the dreaded decision. Now I have to figure out the riddle.  Is this apparent illness Live? or is it Memorex?  Why is it that kids are never sick on the weekend?  It’s almost always on a school day.  If there is a holiday break, rarely are my children ill.  So what makes our children want to stay home during school days?  Are they really just lazy little critters who can’t wait to sleep the entire day away, rather than go learn something new, write a few papers, and ride a bus?

Everybody understands the occasional,  “ ijustgottastayhomefromschooltodayitis”. But sometimes, there’s more to it.  Here are some suggestions that may come in handy when figuring out what to do with your ill or not so ill child, when you’re not sure what to do.

Look for a pattern in behavior.
Many mysterious illnesses occur only in certain circumstances. Do your children’s symptoms surface only when they have to go to school, do their homework or attend a particular school event or after school activity?

Avoid suggesting that your child is lying.
The pain your child feels is real, regardless if it’s more emotional than physical. It’s okay to acknowledge how they feel with understanding, rather than bickering.  But also tell the child that sometimes,  we have to do things even when we don’t feel good. Translation:  If you can still watch TV and ride bike, you can still go to school and ride a bus.  You just DO IT.  Put it in perspective for them.  say something like,  “I’d love to stay home from work today too, but I can’t just STAY HOME.  I’m being paid to work, and I have to go.  But I DO understand how you feel.  Let’s get up, Kiddo.”  Follow this with a smile and a loving pat that says, “Get up…You’re Going.  Don’t make me say it twice.”

Don’t focus on the child’s symptoms.
Talk about how it is all right to feel scared, angry or jealous at times, and that it is also okay to not know what to do…exactly. The child may need to know that it’s acceptable to talk to you about what’s happening at school, and you’re not going to yell at them for it. As a parent, recognize that the symptoms your child has may be the only way they can deal with their issues.  Try being understanding. It will  be easier to break the cycle of being afraid if they know you understand how they feel, and you will stand behind them.  Then, make sure that your child knows that pretending to be ill is not an effective way to solve their problems. Honesty is the best policy to finding a solution. Skipping school is a solution of sorts, but the solution only creates more problems down the road, because of missing assignments, and make up work.  Yuk.  How fun is that?!

“The Amazing Fast Recovery Kid”.
Most parents can tell pretty quickly if their children are not really sick. If a child suddenly gets better a few minutes after the school bus leaves, then drive them to school for the remainder of the day.

Don’t Praise a child for feeling good.
Praising a child when she says she feels good can backfire because it keeps the focus on the child’s physical health rather than her emotional health. Set aside a regular time that you can spend with the child alone, even if it’s only a few minutes a day, so that she can count on some individual attention from you without fighting for it.

Talk To the Teacher about your concerns.
Your child’s Teacher may know exactly why your student may want to skip school today.  Perhaps they have to give a speech.  Maybe they’ve teamed up in gym and the boys have to dance with the girls… holding a girls hand?!  My boys are at the age where jumping out of a window would be more appealing. I’m just sayin’!   Find out what’s happening at school, so that you can figure out what’s behind the mystery illness.

Reality Check….Are You Contributing to the Problem?
Children in “high achieving” families whose parents have very high expectations often have high anxiety levels, which make children much more likely to “fake it.”
Children from “Whiner” households, in which the parents themselves may complain about physical symptoms due to psychological stresses are also more likely to fake it.
If this sounds like your house,  consider getting professional help — for you and your child — to learn to deal with  anxiety and depression and other problems that may lead to physical symptoms.

Conclusion:
If you are convinced your child is playing hooky, but you don’t want to call them out on it, let them stay home every now and then.  Everybody needs a break.  BUT!  Don’t make the mistake of a sick day being a Holiday.  Keep the TV off.  No video gaming or computer devices.  Tell them to sleep.  Make sure they stay in bed.  They’ll soon be wondering, “Why did I choose this over school today?”   If they are really sick, it’s more than likely they will  want the rest,  and could care less if the TV is on, or what you’re going to be  feeding them for lunch.

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