When should you keep your children home from school?

Belle is home from school today. I sent her in yesterday, despite her protests that she was definitely going to be sick or faint at any moment, and when she got home she did seem actually unwell. She went to bed at 7.30pm, rosy-cheeked and whimpering, and was asleep before 9pm – practically unheard of for Belle, who normally likes to sit up in bed crafting small items out of coloured paper until at least ten o’clock.

This morning then, I was prepared for her to milk her feverish state as much as possible, and so when she came into my room at about half past seven, forcing out a cough and doing her best ‘look how sick I am’ face, I relented, and sent her back to bed.* Now though, seemingly having made a partial recovery, she is sat in bed quietly making friendship bracelets and reading her library books. She is being very quiet indeed, hoping I think that I will forget she is there and not make her go into school at lunchtime.

It’s such a difficult one though – when exactly should you keep a child home from school?

Open wide…

Canvassing opinion this morning on Twitter and Facebook, it seems that there are several rather distinct schools of thought. Some parents are happy for sick kids to snuggle up in front of the TV under a duvet when they’re off school. Others, like me, are more in the ‘cruel to be kind’ camp, believing that if a child is ill enough to stay home from school they should be in bed, being as bored as possible. Boyfriend, who is slightly more extreme in his views, would just send her in with a plastic bowl and a packet of Tunes, but I’m a little bit too soft for this – partly just because I’m lazy, and partly because I don’t want to be That Mum – the one who sends a child in with their leg falling off just so she can get some peace and quiet at home.

I’ve probably been influenced as well by own experiences as a child. My Mum, and I’m sure she would be the first to admit this, has never been a fan of tough love. At the first sign of a quivering lip she’d have you on the sofa watching Richard & Judy. Sneeze in her presence and you’d be whisked off to the doctors, have been told to drink plenty of fluids, and be in the chemist buying a sugar-free lollipop before you could get your hanky out. I was off school a lot as a child, and have fond memories of being sat under a duvet with a bowl of tomato soup sprinkled with grated cheese.

That’s the problem though isn’t it? I don’t especially want Belle to think fondly of her time off school, otherwise where is the incentive for her to get better? By making a day off as dull as possible, the hope is that her bout of ‘feeling sick’ will be over as quickly as possible. What do you reckon – is this mean or just practical for a working mum?

Before finishing this, I thought I should go up and check on her. In desperation she has finished her maths homework and is learning her spellings. “How are you feeling?” I ask her.

“Fine,” she says, without thinking, and quickly corrects herself. “Well not fine of course. I feel a bit better, just not 100%”

Sounds like she is on the mend to me. It’s amazing what a good dose of boredom can do.

*I am possibly being a bit mean here. I do believe that she doesn’t feel well.


  1. 15 January, 2013 / 1:28 pm

    My youngest would happily stay home for extra exclusive Mummy-time. I’ve sent her with a bad cold before after just one day off fearing that if I didn’t force her back to school then, she would never go. Any sign of a sickness bug though – and it’s a full 48-hours – otherwise the mummy mafia would have my guts for garters!!

  2. 15 January, 2013 / 3:00 pm

    My mom had a keen sense of when you were really sick and wen you were faking. If you were really sick, it was no question to stay home. You could be on the couch, with the TV. I’m sure there was pampering, but I don’t remember it because I was knocked out being sick. I do remember one day that I was faking being sick, thinking I would get to be on the couch watching TV. My mom sniffed it out. She made me lay in bed all day, no TV, no pampering, no cuddling. I never tried it again. I follow the same rules with my kids, a legit illness gets pampering, a fake-o gets a smile and a ride to school!

  3. sue wilkinson
    15 January, 2013 / 3:35 pm

    It’s really hard to know sometimes but when in doubt I keep them at home because I hate to think of them being ill and miserable at school. What I’ve never understood is why the schools are so reluctant to call you if the child says she is ill. I’d be much happier sending them when I wasn’t sure if I knew they could come home if they were feeling bad. I usually let them watch TV but won’t spend time amusing them myself.

  4. 15 January, 2013 / 3:40 pm

    It is quite hard to know what to do – especially when you are not completely sure that the kid is somehow faking (or exaggerating). On the other hand I hate when my little ones go to school filled with pupils who cough and spread viruses all over the place – I mean, come on, this way my kids will also get sick…Especially without any adult there (meaning: me) to check if they wash their hands as many times as they should etc. But I guess those are extreme cases. I think one day-off for Belle isn’t such a big deal – maybe there was something she was scared of that day at school? It can be such a cruel place sometimes!

  5. 15 January, 2013 / 8:32 pm

    Both of my daughters stayed home from school yesterday (fevers and runny noses). Today the youngest still has a fever, and even vomited a couple of times. So she’s resting her little heart out today. I definitely feel we, as parents, can sense when our children are “well enough” to go to school, or actually sick. And in case we have our suspicions, constantly checking up on them is the best form of medicine sometimes.


  6. 15 January, 2013 / 9:29 pm

    My youngest, who’s adopted, fakes illness a lot when he wants to get out of something. He was really nervous about performing in last year’s school production, which he then missed as he had tonsillitis, diagnosed by the GP and quickly cured with antibiotics. Some of the school staff think he was faking, even though I’ve been to see the Head to say he was ill. I really feel judged by this, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

  7. 27 January, 2013 / 10:04 pm

    My kid would jump at the chance to stay home from school. However, once I made it clear that sick doesn’t equal endless cartoon time, all those aches and pains seem to miraculously disappeared.

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