Children get sick with colds or other infections and viruses, as well as injuries. When they need to rest and recover, not to mention avoid passing on any germs to their classmates, it is right and proper to keep them at home. However, occasionally there are other factors at play, and for parents, carers and teachers it is important to spot bullying, and this is where anti-bullying awareness training is useful.
There are ways to check to see if they are ill. For example, something physical is clearly going on if they have obvious symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea or a fever. Many parents have a rule of “no fun sick days.” If a child is home sick, they shouldn’t plan on television, video games, or computer time. The focus should be on resting and recovering, and maybe reading some books if not too ill. When kids don’t care about these limits and don’t argue with them, chances are they are actually feeling poorly.
However, when illness seems to happen every week or two, with vague symptoms that suspiciously decline or disappear as soon as a sick day is declared, something else may be going on. As a parent, you want to know if they are trying to avoid something — or someone — at school.
It’s important to recognise that whatever it is, the unhappiness or fears the child is feeling is very real to them. Avoid being angry or accusatory in approaching them about it, or they will be likely to shut you out and be unwilling to talk about it.
Here are some common reasons kids get uncomfortable enough at school to try to avoid it by “playing sick.”
Bullying Awareness – Mean Kids
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for children to be mean to one another. Dealing with interpersonal drama with friends as well as bullying and name calling seems to be part of growing up, and school can be as much about learning to navigate these battles as about learning reading and math.
Struggling with Schoolwork
Your child may not be doing as well as they think they should be. There may be learning issues involved, or even something as simple as needing to have their eyesight or hearing checked. Or they may struggle with concentration, organisation, or simply feel out of their depth with the material.
Big Events at Home
Have there been recent big changes on the home front? Illness or death of a relative, divorce or fighting between parents, or even a new baby? Kids can get insecure and want to be around the house to keep track of what’s going on.
Any of these situations can cause a child to exaggerate “not feeling well.” Being upset, depressed or under stress can also cause physical symptoms to develop or be magnified. If you suspect something more than simple germs is behind your child’s pleas for sick days, try discussing with them diplomatically. If they are not forthcoming, checking with teachers or siblings may give additional insight.
If you do discover that there is something more than physical illness going on with your child, what should you do? If the struggles are with the work itself, it may be time to meet with the teacher, with or without your child present, and try to figure out some strategies to help. It wouldn’t hurt to get a pediatric checkup as well as vision and hearing evaluations to see if there is a physical problem. If there are specific struggles with reading or math, extra study time with you or a tutor, or looking into evaluations for learning disabilities may be the way to go.
For social problems such as bullying or struggles with friends, being open with your child about struggles you may have had yourself can help, especially if you can suggest strategies you found for coping. It may be possible to discuss with other parents of the children involved, or with the teachers and principal at the school for serious bullying issues. But the most important step is to work with your child to help them become more resilient and able to stand up to what is going on. It may help to take your child to a counsellor who can provide an objective listener and who can help them figure out the best ways to cope with the situation. Remember, when it comes to bullying awareness is one of the most important steps.
If it turns out there is an issue at home, counselling might also be an answer. It may turn out that the issue is not overwhelming, and a session or two coupled with some reassurance from you can help get through the rough period. For something larger, like a divorce, it is often best for all the family members to have some individual time with a therapist who specialises in that area, as well as some group sessions where a counsellor facilitates the family members talking through things and making some agreements for how to go forward.
Finally, dealing with your child’s stresses can weigh on you as well. If you need to seek professional help and advice, whether from the child’s teachers, school counsellors or your own therapist, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for the help and support you need.
Tutorcare offers anti-bullying awareness training for those looking after or working with vulnerable people and children. The course looks at what is defined as bullying, impacts and consequences of bullying and offers ways of preventing and managing bullying. The half-day course also looks strategies for dealing with bullies in the workplace.
In addition to the anti-bullying awareness training course, Tutorcare offers Safeguarding Children Training (CQC) courses aimed at anyone who works with or has contact with children and young people. This course covers Legislation, safeguarding laws and guidance, how to recognise child abuse and what to do to report abuse if suspected.