Sick or faking?
Is my child really
sick or are they faking? This question comes to mind any
morning a child asks to stay home from school.
Some kids will do anything - from bizarre to
potentially dangerous - to get a day away from school.
That means parents may have to play detective to
determine if their child is faking an illness. Trust is a big issue.
If you think all you need to figure out is when
your teen or preteen is heating the thermometer to create a fever,
you're behind the curve. The Internet has spawned wikis and discussion
boards where kids share their best tips on faking out parents.
Perusing a few of the sites can give you an idea of
why some kids lie. They've got a big test, lag behind on a
project or paper, perform poorly in several classes, are being bullied
or ostracized, or want to hang out alone with a girlfriend or
If other kids planned school projects as
elaborately as they plan sick days, they would have no problems with
classes. Chronic fakers often have more troubles than just skipping
Some things to watch out for if you think your
child is faking it:
Frequency. Be on the
alert if your kid tells you she's sick every month or six weeks.
Timing. Look for other
patterns. If you have to leave for work before your child catches
the bus, do you find you're being called at work or on the way to
work about symptoms of sickness? Do you get calls from the school
nurse during your child's first-period classes?
Setup. Call the mom of
your son's friend if your kid says his friend is sick. Some teens
who plan sick days will say their friend has stomach flu or some
illness; this sets your child up for catching the fake illness
after an incubation period.
Homework. Find out from the
teacher if you don't know when that book report is due and you
doubt your child's memory.
Temperature. Monitor your
child and wait five or 10 minutes before dragging out the
thermometer after your child suggests he's uncomfortable. That way
any short-term spikes in temperature from hot liquids or warm
coins under the tongue can even out. Stay in the room while the
thermometer is in the child's mouth. Take your child's temperature
again in 15 or 20 minutes without announcing it to check
Vomiting. Witness it, to be
indelicate. Some kids scour the house for stuff, like condensed
vegetable soup, to pour in the commode or even in their room. Some
will drink vinegar and milk, eat crackers and create other foul
combinations to induce vomiting or will use a finger down the
Medicines. Make sure you have
control over the household medicine cabinet. Some kids will take
what they don't need to feel bad; others will not swallow the
pills you're giving them so they can stay alert while you're at
A sick day should be designed for rest. If you
think you're being tricked, eliminate the joys of home: Cut the cable,
block the computer, take away the cell phone and corral the iPod.
Sometimes you've got to be strict to be effective.
Remember, your child can read if she can't sleep anymore. If she's
sick, she won't want to catch up on TV, cruise the Internet, text
message friends or dance the hours away.