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How parents can best navigate sick days for kids

Posted at 10:15 AM, Dec 15, 2023

It's the season of runny noses and bad coughs and when your kids get sick, if the symptoms are serious, school is not a good idea.

But there's some gray area. Maybe they seem anxious and that's causing them to feel physically ill.

To figure out what's going on with your child, psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior says the biggest thing is making sure kids feel comfortable.

"You can say, 'What's big for you right now? Is there anything that you're concerned about? Is there anything about the holidays that's becoming stressful for you?' But a lot of times the more general questions are the way to go because then they can start to follow your lead and you can start to follow their lead as well."

Bonior says we can't expect our children to come to us and tell us they feel stressed or anxious and connect all the dots.

"If the mental health isn't there, the physical health isn't going to be there," said mom of two Heather Clarke.

Clarke says she walks her kids through worse-case scenarios.

"Like what are the logical consequences if something happens? So like, if it's a test coming up and we're anxious about it, like for my fourth grader, what is the worst that can happen if you fail a test?"

"Mommy and Daddy are still going to love you. You're still going to be an awesome person."

If you're not sure if your child is dealing with something physical or if it's more of a mental health situation, Dr. Bonior says to contact your doctor. If you do decide to let your kid have a mental health day, she adds, don't just use it as a free pass from school.

"That can be a healing time where you actually learn some coping mechanisms, you do some active relaxation exercises to be more energized."