For parents back to school season can be quite stressful. If your child consistently pleads with you to stay home from school, skips school, or has anxiety related to attending school then they may have “school refusal behavior.” Christopher A. Kearney, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Director of the UNLV Child School Refusal and Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His new book, Getting Your Child to Say “Yes” To School: A Guide for Parents With School Refusal Behavior is filled with concrete strategies and step-by-step instructions to make painful morning more routine. Below are some guidelines excerpted from the book about when you should allow your child to stay home.
Parents often ask which somatic complaints should keep a child home from school. We recommend a child go to school except when there is:
- A temperature of 100 degrees or more
- Frequent vomiting
- Severe diarrhea
- Severe flu-like symptoms
- Another very severe medical condition such as intense pain
If a child has these problems, seek the advice of a pediatrician. In addition, a child with these problems should remain in bed during the school day or complete schoolwork at home. Do not allow a child to do many fun things during the school day, because this rewards her for missing school. If a child is absent from school for 2 or more days because of these problems, ask parents to contact the child’s teacher(s) to arrange for homework that can be completed during the day.
Try to establish an attitude within the family that a child is expected to attend school unless some severe medical problem is present. Minor headaches, stomachaches, or nausea are not enough to keep a child home and might be managed by over-the-counter or prescription medication. If a child’s symptoms become more severe during the school day, then she can visit the nurse’s office. Parents will have more success getting a child to go to school if they expect and encourage school attendance every day. Only extreme circumstances, and not more minor ones such as a cold, should keep a child home from school, especially one with a history of school refusal behavior.