As cold weather descends onto Northeast Ohio, so do illnesses and increased absences from school.
While it’s understandable that your child will miss some school, you want to make sure those sick days don’t turn into chronic absenteeism. A day off here or there can add up, and it can be hard for a student to catch up on missed school work.
It is often easy to reach for the phone to call your child off; however, before you do, you should weigh the benefits if your child were to go to school or stay home, and how it will affect them in the long run.
If your child begins to miss multiple days of school, it’s important to consider why he or she doesn’t want to go. Are they truly sick, or is there another underlying reason? If there is something preventing your child from wanting to go to school, you will want to come up with a solution that will make school a place your child wants to be.
There are realistic reasons not to send your child to school. Many different illnesses, especially during the winter months, spread quickly among school-aged children, so your child may very well end up missing some days due to illness.
If your child does get sick, keep them home to both give them time to rest and to make sure they don’t infect their classmates.
When deciding whether or not to keep a child home, evaluate how your child is feeling.
Dr. Heather Mielke, a family practitioner at University Hospitals in Strongsville, advises keeping your child home if they show signs of fever, pink eye, vomiting, or diarrhea. However, there are viruses such as Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease or rashes that can keep your younger child home for a longer amount of time.
Heidi Bodi, school nurse at Fairport Harbor Schools, shares the precautions her school takes to stop the spread of illness. “The policy we have adopted is any student who has a fever of 100 degrees or above or has vomited is sent home from school,” she says. “That student must be fever-free without the use of medication for 24 hours before returning to school. The same 24 hour rules applies to vomiting as well. This allows the ill child to rest and minimizes the spread of illness among other students in the classroom. If there are multiple students out with the same symptoms, our custodial staff does a targeted disinfecting of the particular classrooms, as well as common areas like handrails, drinking fountains and restrooms.”
Sandy Yankie, district school nurse at Perry Schools, suggests that if your child has a cold or sore throat, send them to school with tissues and cough drops. Remind them to wash their hands often throughout the day to help stop the spread of germs.
While your child is home sick, make sure that you’re doing everything you can to help them make a quick recovery. Ensure that they are going to bed at a time that will allow them to get a full night’s rest. Remove any distractions in their rooms like cellphones, computers, and TVs, which may encourage them to stay up late. If possible, have your child contact a friend in their class or e-mail the teacher to get any missed work.
Children will miss school, but it’s important for parents to make sure that your child’s absences don’t become a regular occurrence and their attendance record is full of more days in the classroom than out.
Anxiety or Illness?
If your child is resisting school, the simplest way to determine why your child doesn’t want to go to school is through conversation. Take the time to sit down with your child and talk about what might be going on. These should be conversations that you try to have in the afternoon or evening when there is more time, rather than making a quick decision in the morning when your child doesn’t want to go to school.
He or she may tell you that they don’t want to go to school because they don’t like it or don’t want to, but that is rarely the real case. Creating an open dialogue with your child will help you to discover the true reason. Perhaps they are struggling with the school work and it’s easier to avoid it. Or maybe they aren’t being challenged enough and are bored. A lack of desire to go to school can sometimes be connected to bullying or problems with friends. If you can figure out the reason, you can work with your child to solve that problem.
If your child has anxiety about going to school, high school guidance counselor Lina Kosloski recommends having them identify signals that suggest the start of that anxiety and then have them “visualize a relaxing place. Imagine the smells, sounds, etc., of this relaxing place and breathe slowly.”
Engaging in calm activity that your child enjoys can also be a good way to relax them.
Kaitlyn Jonozzo, guidance counselor, says she found success with a grant. “Last year, we had an intern that wrote a grant for us to purchase relaxation toys/coloring books,” she says. “I find that a lot of times students just want a quiet place to relax if they are feeling anxious during the school day. Students will come down and color in a stress-reducing coloring book or just listen to music. This helps a lot of students be able to return to class.”
Talk with your child to figure out what relaxes them and have this item available at home, in the car, and perhaps even in their bookbag so they can channel some of their feelings into the activity as a tool to calm themselves down if they begin to feel anxious.
Also, see if a teacher or staff member can connect with your child to look in on them from time to time. Positive role models are important, and teachers are willing to go the extra step to connect with a child to let them know someone is on their side and rooting for them.
If it seems like a daily battle to get them motivated to go to school, reach out to the school’s guidance department or your child’s pediatrician.
Getting Your Child to School
School should be an environment that students want to come to. Encourage your child to become involved in extracurricular activities. Help them find something that they’re interested in and encourage participation.
Todd Porcello, Perry High School principal, believes “the key for student attendance is a connection to our school through extracurriculars in addition to positive relationships with fellow students and the staff.”
Students tend to take pride in themselves and their school when they feel like they are a part of something. Participating in a sport, a club, or a volunteer opportunity creates an environment of inclusion.
Make sure you’re taking an active role in your child’s education. Ask them about their day and what they are doing in the classroom. Encourage them to share what they are learning. Phrase your questions in ways that get them talking, such as, “What was your favorite part of the day?” or “What was one fact that you learned at school today?”
Taking an interest in your child’s day-to-day life at school can show them that you’re involved and invested in them doing well at school, which can be highly motivating.
Rachele Alpine Mielke is a teacher by day, wife and mother by night, and writer during any time she can find in between. She’s an author of five middle grade and YA novels. rachelealpine.com