When should you keep the kids off school?

When should you keep kids off school? Public Health Wales has just issued a health guide giving parents advice on when to keep their kids off. Apparently, not for nits and worms. A tricky one on the nit front because if everyone did keep their kids off then nits might not be so widespread, but since they are it seems virtually pointless to do so because the chances are they are going to get them again and again and again and you could be facing potentially months off school over a school lifetime, not to mention the work implications. 

The guide asks people to think what they would do if they had the same condition. Now this is not a good way of posing the issue to someone like me. I work mainly from home in any event. This means that I never have a day off sick. If I am still able to open my eyes, even if only slightly, and my hand is able to hover over the keyboard I am “in work”. I do not think it would be useful to adopt the same draconian approach with my children. 

I would like to say that it is only since working from home that I have been like this, but I do recall other instances in the past where I was in an office on my own and feeling not very well. The sensible thing would have been to go home, but I had a tonne of work to get through. Instead I laid down on the floor and conducted my work from the lying down position with a high temperature. It seemed, at the time, the most sensible course of events since going home would have been even more of an effort until the Nurofen kicked in. 

I also had a period of getting a terrible cough every time I got a cold, probably due to the overworking tendencies outlined above. This would last for at least a week and be exhausting since I didn’t get any sleep at all, but in between coughing I felt okay, if knackered and slightly spaced out – the perfect training for parenthood. I decided I was well enough to work after equipping myself with a bottle of codeine from the chemist. The only problem was that journalism requires a lot of talking. Talking precedes coughing. I was downing so much codeine that I almost passed out, although in quite a happy state. Again, not a model that I would suggest for my children.

With the kids I veer between thinking I am a little bit too accommodating – daughter one is off sick today and I think she could probably have made it in – to sending people in dosed up with Calpol for sore throats, etc. Decisions on sick days tend to depend on other circumstances, eg, availability of childcare. This can seem very arbitrary to children. For instance, if one gets to stay off with a migraine, why should that not be a blanket policy? There probably should be some rules, but context is all, as I try to explain. Daughter one could have gone into school after her migraine cleared, but she tends to be exhausted as a result and, crucially, I would need to take her, taking out a vital part of the middle section of the day with phone calls etc having to be rescheduled. No amount of guides are going to take into account the context of every health decision you make, particularly when you have around three minutes to make said decision before the school bus arrives. The best plan is to have no plan, but to go with whatever decision you first thought of and then find a way to justify it to yourself afterwards – if you have time.

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