Faking It

Filed under: Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Tweens

Welcome to Time Out, the place parents gather for witty insight, tongue-in-cheek advice, and calming reassurance from a seasoned parenting veteran who believes laughing together beats sobbing alone when it comes to crayons in the dryer and other hazards of childhood.

Dear Time Out,

How can I tell if my kid is really sick or just trying to get out of school? I don't mind staying home if something is truly wrong, but a lot of sore throats and tummy aches seem to be occurring on days when there are Dora marathons on Nick Jr. While I'm just as concerned as the next person about Dora's fate, I can't afford to blow sick days just to keep Swiper from swiping and master basic Spanish. It's becoming a grande problemo.

Adios and muchas gracias!


Dear Anne,

At my rural public school back in the day, the school nurse job appeared to be filled by the first parent to show up with a white uniform in their possession. While she was really nice, I can remember being sent home with a fever on two different occasions after complaining of a sore throat and thinking hot thoughts with the thermometer in my mouth.

And let's face facts, without upholstery-destroying bodily fluids, common, run-of-the-mill-just-don't-feel-so-good illness can be hard to prove. Here some some signs I look for to see if the kid is sick or just sick of school:

  • Skin tone is pale or slightly greenish and not due to coloring themselves with markers
  • Sweaty or flushed and haven't been wrestling siblings
  • Shows lack of interest rather than spontaneously combusting with joy when offered an All-You-Can-Eat soda, juice, and Popsicle buffet
  • Quiet and still while awake
  • Asks to take a nap (or falls asleep on their own) rather than shrieking about the inhumanity of enforced rest time
  • Will watch the Weather Channel for hours without requesting the channel be changed to something animated
  • Doesn't notice or care if beverage offered is not in their special cup
  • Remain sluggish even after television is turned off and healthy siblings depart for a fun activity (like Disney World)

It's common for kids to fake illness every now and then. As long as it doesn't become a regular avoidance tactic (in which case you should seek professional assistance in how best to teach the child better coping methods) and staying home doesn't become more pleasant and fun school, schedules usually get back to normal fairly quickly.

And if it turns out your kid IS faking, try not to get too upset-think of it as practice for when they enter the working world!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.