How to Tell if Your Child is Faking Sick (And What to Do About It) 

It is perfectly natural for kids to want to play hooky. We can remember what it was like at their age–and even now, having to go to work! School can be a tedious chore for a growing child’s active mind. When it concerns persistent or mature children, the task of discerning when and how to address a child’s plea to stay home from school or another activity can be tricky. Parents of young children especially need to be on the look out for signs that of illness in children that your kids may not be sophisticated enough to put into words themselves. Here are a few things to look out for when you are looking to catch your child in a lie and how to navigate the aftermath. 

Act as Though You Don’t Doubt Them…Even if You Do 

As tempting as it is to write your child’s efforts to get out of an activity or a school day as simply playing hooky, really give them the benefit of the doubt. Unless your child has a long established pattern of lying to get out of obligations (more on that below), they deserve a fighting shot to make their case. And, as their parent, you obviously have a responsibility to their wellness first. Approach questioning them with the same delicacy you would with a child you were already convinced was sick and, if you are on the fence, take pains to show them that you care about their wellness and will care for them. Your attentive care will likely guilt them into slipping up, if they’re lying, or at the very least into cooperating. The goal is to remind them that you love them and will care for them no matter what. Under no circumstances do you want your child to think you will jump at the chance to accuse them of lying! Their longterm mental health and relationship with you is more important than a missed schoolday, so do not make accusations lightly. 

Keep Tabs of Physical Symptoms 

Maybe your child does feel sick but is milking it a bit for their benefit. As long as it does not become a pattern, missing a day of school can be relatively harmless in the grand scheme. Your main concerns should be parsing out what is fact and what is fiction. Maybe they have cold sweats that you ought to be concerned about, but your child still feels well enough to play computer games. As we all know, not all illnesses are life threatening. So as long as you regularly check on the progression of your child’s symptoms, you can discern over time if they’re getting worse, better, or maintaining, and then compare that with the trajectory of potential illnesses later on. For instance, if your child describes having flu-like symptoms but never presents with a fever, you can feel safe to call their bluff later on. 

Your Child Perks Up Considerably 

This one seems a bit on the nose, but, as obvious as it seems, you will want to tread lightly with accusing your child of lying just because they are in the mood to play video games. Sophisticated children will actually learn, over time, to act more subdued and sicker than they actually feel to keep up a façade of illness. There is always a chance that, without the added stress of school, your child feels ready to get up and start moving around the house. You should start to become concerned that you’ve been had if your child immediately picks up a gaming controller the minute the school bus rolls away from your street, or begins asking after food when she or he was too nauseous to stand not long ago. Do not give your child any incentive to stay home in the future or make a habit of it by rewarding their sickness. Treat them like they’re sick! 

When to Worry 

If your child is making a habit out of trying to skip out on school, another activity in particular, or all social situations across the board, it is still time to get a doctor involved—even though they might not be physically ill. Find a doctor with a great network of sub specialists like the Pediatric Center. Sometimes, a child can feel ashamed or nervous about sharing their fears with a parent. They may feel guilty about missing school or not wanting to be around their friends without understanding why. These are definitely signs of something deeper, and you need to be sensitive while still keeping tabs on the mental wellbeing of your child. 

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