There’s no denying that it can be tough to determine when your child is actually sick and when he is faking it. You want to believe that cherubic face, especially when the eyes water and the lip starts trembling, but you can’t let your child play hooky, not to mention get away with lying to your face, when he’s perfectly healthy and capable of going to school. Of course, there will be times when your child simply needs a mental health day (don’t we all?), and it is your prerogative as a parent to let him off the hook for a day of truancy once in a while if you feel like he’s over-stressed or burned out for whatever reason. But when your child is taking frequent sick days and you’re starting to wonder whether there’s something seriously wrong with him or if he’s trying to pull a fast one because he doesn’t want to attend class, there are a few tricks you can use to determine just how sick he actually is before deciding whether to ship him off to the vaunted halls of learning for the day.
The first trick is to take his temperature. If he has some sort of infection or virus it will likely cause his body to heat up as it produces antibodies to fight the threat. When a fever is present you can be sure that he’s not faking his symptoms; he probably doesn’t feel well at all. This could also be a sign that your child is contagious (in cases of cough and cold, for example) in which case you should definitely keep him home (or risk the ire of parents and school officials). Another physical indicator of illness is a rash, and since it could indicate chicken pox, you’ll probably want to make an appointment with your pediatrician rather than sending your him to school.
Of course, there may not be any physical indications of illness to help you out. What if your child claims a headache or stomach ache, for example? You might not be able to determine whether he’s faking it to get out of class or if he’s actually ill. To some degree, every parent knows their child, so you’ll be aware of whether he’s likely to lie (some children really don’t try to pull one over on you) as well as whether or not he’s capable of doing so in a believable manner, which is to say he could fool you.
But if you’re still not sure you could try a couple of psychological tactics to see if he’ll recant. For one thing you could tell him that he can stay home but you’re taking him to the doctor. If he doesn’t think his false ailment will hold up to the nursing informatics programs at the office (or he’s worried about getting poked and prodded) he might agree that he’s well enough to go to school. You could also try taking away entertainment (making him stay in bed all day with no TV so he can rest) or cancelling activities (play dates, favorite sports, or other extracurriculars) for the week so that he can recuperate. If there’s something he really wants to do he’ll probably get up and go to school. But if he’s really sick he’ll likely stay home even under the threat of missing out on fun later.