When we moved to Australia, I was shocked to discover that many people were sick. At school, it was hard to find a day when all kids were there. At Gal's work, out of 7 people working in the office, 2 or 3 were missing every day, because they were sick.
At first, I thought Australians were just sick more often than others in the world, but after a short time, I came to the conclusion they were taking a day off when they were tired, sneezed too much, had some errands to run or just needed a day off.
As a parent, that freaked me out. I could take myself one or two years into the future and imagine my own children substitute "Mom, I want some time off" with "Mom, I'm sick". I believe that if you say you are sick enough times, you will convince your body that you are and then you will actually feel sick. Gal and I put a lot of effort and thinking into raising healthy kids and the thought of them being "sick" every time they needed to rest made me feel sick ;P
I fully understand that people need some a break from time to time and the regular days off on weekends and public holidays are good, but they do not always come at the right time or provide enough relief. It makes sense to me that kids do not plan to need time off exactly on those days, so it is just natural that they want time off on a school day.
The problem with "being sick" is that you cannot really enjoy the day and rejuvenate, which defeats the purpose of taking a day off. Taking these needs into consideration, I came up with a solution that has been working for me for over 12 years.
No more sick kids
I told the kids that if they are healthy the whole term (each term is about 10 weeks long), they can pick a day in each term to have a break and on that day, we can do some fun things together. There are some rules to this contract:
- You cannot pick an exam day
- You must let me know ahead, so I can plan it and be home with you
- You cannot pick the same day as your sibling (this allow me to spend individual time with each one of my kids, although on special circumstances, we have had lots of fun with the whole family)
Advantages of picking a day off over being sick
There are many advantages to picking your day off when you are healthy over saying, "Mom, I'm sick" and pretending to be sick.
- The greatest advantage is that kids do not associate having time off with being sick, so they are sick less often.
- I have seen so many people that say, "I can't out so that no one will see me, because I'm supposed to be sick in bed". Not much fun being stuck at home. On a planned day off, you can do whatever you like.
- You do not have to lie to the teachers, so this is a good reward for being honest. I always send a letter to the teacher beforehand and say, "Noff is going to be away on that day". I never lie about this. Remember, teachers and schools are giving you a service and being afraid to be honest is not good for your relationship with your service provider. The teachers will appreciate that more. They know that some parents write "sick" letters even when their kids are not sick (because they do it themselves).
- You can arrange for one of your or your partner to take a day off instead of having to ask family members, neighbors and friends to take care of your sick child.
- You can pick better days for time off so that your child does not miss things that are important to them at school.
I have had this agreement with my kids for 12 years. Tsoof hardly ever used those days, because he was busy and did not want to miss out. In the last two weeks of term, I would ask him, "Which day would you like to take off?" and he would say, "Monday ... no, I don’t want to miss Show Choir ... Tuesday ... no, I don't want o miss Wind Ensemble ... Wednesday ... no, I don't want o miss Drama ... Thursday ... no, I don’t want to miss Percussion Ensemble ... Friday ... no, I don't want to miss Big Band. That's OK, I won't take a day off this term". This was true almost every term for the last 6 days of his schooling.
This week, Noff asked to take her day off. Our new kitchen was arriving and she wanted to be home to watch it being assembled. I was so happy she just asked to stay home instead of having to pretend she was sick. We had to go to school early to bring back something she had left there, so she went to school without her uniform, walked into her classroom and told everyone she was staying home to watch the instillation of the new kitchen. I was very proud she felt comfortable to tell the truth, not to mention that she had been healthy the whole term.
Please try this at home! It works like magic (you can even reward yourself with a day off after being healthy for 3 months solid).
Happy, healthy parenting,