Poll Shows That Many Children Fret About Missing School Due to Illness

School attendance policies can also be problematic for students with chronic health conditions
Poll Shows That Many Children Fret About Missing School Due to Illness
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MONDAY, March 25, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Most parents struggle to decide whether or not to allow their children to take a sick day when they complain of feeling unwell.

"In some cases, the decision to keep kids home from school is clear, such as if the child is vomiting or has a high fever," Sarah Clark, M.P.H., codirector of the Mott Poll from University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, said in a university news release. "But parents often have to guess at whether their child's report of 'not feeling well' represents a good reason to miss school."

In the latest poll -- based on 1,300 responses last month from parents of 11- to 18-year-olds -- two in three said their child frets about how missing school will affect their grades. The same number worry about missing friends or school activities.

For parents, deciding whether children need a sick day rests mainly on whether they think they can get through the entire academic day, whether they are contagious, and whether they will miss a test, presentation, or afterschool activity, the poll revealed. How any symptoms are causing them to behave is also key.

When it is not clear just how sick a child is, more than half of parents are likely to keep them home, according to the poll. Another 25 percent send them to school and keep their fingers crossed. About one in five let the child decide. The same number said they are okay with letting their child take a "mental health day" for any number of reasons. Clark noted that in some cases face-to-face interactions may trigger or worsen mental health issues, such as after a falling-out with friends, breakup with a love interest, or a social media embarrassment.

Parents may want to consider how their child could benefit from a mental health day. The break may offer a chance to help them prepare for difficult interactions, practice ways to stay calm, and identify sources of moral support, Clark added. And missing school may be necessary to sustain well-being for children who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. The child's mental health provider can provide guidance.

Adhering to attendance policies can be difficult for students with chronic health conditions, parents said. They may often miss class due to medical appointments or to avoid flare-ups of their conditions. Giving teachers and school administrators a heads-up is important, Clark said. "These families may need to enlist the child's health care providers for support in requesting school flexibility in completing assignments at home or with additional time," she suggested.

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