How do you know when kids really need a sick day?

When your child asks to stay home sick from school, do you automatically let them… or try to convince them they are well enough to go?

I’m writing this post for parents like me who occasionally struggle with knowing whether to let kids stay home sick from school.

I’m not saying Z is a faker a la Ferris Bueller, but I am saying there are days (and, historically, it’s most often Mondays) when they say they are too sick to go to school yet I’m not convinced there is anything really wrong.

Z has pretty good attendance for the most part and we only miss a day or two each semester. On those days when Z does stay home, often there is no fever or other obvious sign of illness – but they are claiming to feel lousy or have a stomach ache.

Since anxiety and depression are factors in our home, and both can contribute to stomach aches and feeling lousy, I am sensitive to the need for mental health days sometimes. On those days, I generally extend a little grace to Z and allow them to stay home even without obvious physical symptoms.

We do have strict rules for sick days, however: no TV, phone or other screens until after 4 pm.

A sick day at our house means laying around on the couch or in bed, reading a good book, resting or quietly doing art. It also means I’ll probably dote on Z a little more, push fluids and offer to make their favorite comfort foods at lunch time.

I don’t see this as babying Z or encouraging unnecessary time off from school. Rather, I see it as a way for them to take a break if they truly need it. We’re big believers that mental health is as important as physical health. If Z is willing to stay home in a quiet house and brave boredom by going without technology for an entire day, then they must really need a break.

I realize that not all families have the luxury or privilege of being able to allow mental health days. I am incredibly fortunate that my work allows for flexibility and that Z is generally in such great physical health that we can use a few sick days for mental health days.

When I think back to my childhood, I know I am doing the right thing. My Mommers allowed me to take sick days as needed as a kid. She never doubted me – if I said I was sick, I got to stay home with her.

If I’m being honest, I was a repeat offender and chronic faker but she never caught on – or if she did, she never let me know. I loved those occasional sick days at home with my Mommers – the joy of having her all to myself, getting a little special attention and being able to read and eat whatever I wanted in peace.

It is remembering that feeling of my Mommers’ total trust in me, even when I knew I often didn’t deserve it, that makes me want to say yes when Z asks to stay home. Times are different now and kids are craftier, but I always want Z to feel that they are believed and trusted. I always want her to know that if she needs a little extra TLC and pampering, she can get it.

That’s why, once in a while, we will let a sick day happen even if I’m fairly certain it’s for mental health reasons rather than physical.

What do you use to make your decisions about whether or not kids can stay home sick from school? As always, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below or over on Facebook.

About the author

Proud and loving mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Writer since birth. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.

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