Kids faking sick
Cold and flu season is upon us, but is your child really sick?
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School holidays are coming to an end and getting back into routine after a nice long break is always a struggle for both parent and child.

The start of a new term is also a time when teachers record more absentees than usual, and often when kids tend to fake sickness to avoid going to school.

Read more: Is it okay for kids to take a 'sick day'?

"But I'm sick!"

When my siblings and I were younger, particularly in our teens, the goal in faking sick was to trick our parents into believing we weren't well enough to go to school. We tried this many times and came up with all sorts of methods to make our parents believe we were ill. 

None of our attempts ever worked, unless by default, and we’d end up being sick in real-life as a result of some of the crazy things we’d do to appear unwell. But for the parents who’ll believe anything, here are some signs to look out for when you think your child is sick (but isn’t).

The rehearsal

If your kids are anything like my brother and I were, they’ll begin the ‘big act’ the night before by telling you that they don’t feel well. Telling you this the night before gives them a chance to convince you throughout the night. After dinner-time was a good time for us to tell our parents we felt sick, (usually our stomach-ache could be linked to mom’s supper,) and we’d slap our cheeks over and over until we looked like we were coming down with something. We’d be unable to finish our homework, drop everything we tried to pick up and resist doing anything that we’d usually wanted to do before bed-time.

Choice of illness

Faking a cold never worked. Mom could always tell a pretend-cough from a real one. After all, having a sore throat, cough, or mild congestion does not necessarily mean a child can't be active and participate in school activities. Tummy bugs seemed more realistic and easier to fake. I once swallowed about half a cup of toothpaste because I’d heard that it would make my stomach turn, which it did, and I hugely regretted it because I was sick (really) for two days after that and had to tell my mom why.

After bedtime

On another occasion, I waited for my parents to go to bed before I sneaked  into the kitchen and swallowed a spoonful of cinnamon. This wasn’t the smartest idea. Cinnamon doesn’t dissolve and I almost stopped breathing at one point after the cinnamon stuck to my throat for about twenty minutes after that. Eventually the cinnamon (and mom’s supper) came up and mom and dad ran to the bathroom to find me pale, crying and humiliated.  

I stayed at home the next day.

If you have to wake your child up the next day, and they’re still asleep when you return to their room, check to see if they really are asleep. If I was ‘fake-sleeping’ when my parents were standing close-by, it was hard to keep a straight face when they spoke to me or asked me something while I was “sleeping”.

The Breakfast-show

The goal in faking sake was to trick our parents into believing we were not well enough to go to school, but that school was still a priority. “It’s baker-man day today and I do not want to miss that”, or “I really want to give school a try today and see how I feel”. Then return to the bathroom for some more fake-vomiting.

The guilt-trip

The next morning we’d continue our feigned illness with stronger symptoms, but still suggest that we want to try and go to school. Most parents will use a child’s temperature to decide if they really are sick or not, but kids can convince you they have a temperature. If you give your child a thermometer, make sure they don’t try to breathe hot air over it or put it near something hot before putting it in their mouth.

But when we really were sick, all attention was on us and we’d be allowed to watch as much TV as we liked and my mom would spoil us with new colouring-in books, games, videos and jelly.

The irony: being sent to school when your parents don’t believe that you really are sick

I’ll never forget the morning I woke up feeling extremely nauseous. I hadn’t need to run to the bathroom yet, but when I told my Mom at breakfast that I didn’t feel well, she didn’t believe me and sent me to school with a bucket. Snd told me to use the bucket if I thought I was going to be sick. (Please note that after faking being sick ten times in that year, she genuinely didn’t believe me).

A few hours later she was asked to come and collect her 11-year-old child from the sick-bay bathroom.

Most kids fake being sick at some point during their school-career, and you might fall for it every now and then. Whilst it’s important to monitor how often they need to miss school in case there’s a bigger, underlying problem, children do often feel overwhelmed at school and need a break.

How do you know when your child is faking sick to avoid going to school?

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