Allowing your child to miss a day or two of school may seem harmless. But how many absences are too many?
Good attendance habits are linked to good health throughout a child’s life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to avoid unnecessary school absences.
Chronic absence means missing too much school — for any reason. Experts consider 18 missed days per year to be chronic. These absences are most common in kindergarten, first grade and high school.
Excused absences, unexcused absences and suspensions all spell trouble for students when they occur often. Allowing a child to miss just two days in the first month of school puts him at higher risk of chronic absence for the rest of the school year. Students who miss too many days are more likely to do poorly in school. They also are more likely to develop unhealthy behaviors as teens and poor health as adults, according to the AAP.
If a child is missing too much school, the AAP urges parents to find out the cause. Is it because the student cannot go (e.g., illness, family hardship), will not go (e.g., bullying, anxiety, safety concerns) or does not think school is important?
If you suspect that a health or mental health concern is causing your child’s chronic absence, talk to your pediatrician.
Reasons to stay home include a temperature greater than 101 degrees, vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, a hacking cough, an earache or a toothache.
Up to 5% of children have school anxiety, which causes symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, hyperventilation, nausea or dizziness. They should be checked by your pediatrician to rule out other causes of illness, according to the AAP.
If your child has a chronic health issue such as asthma, allergies or seizures, talk to your pediatrician about developing a school action plan. The doctor also can offer guidance for children with disabilities or special health care needs who require an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan at school. The AAP also encourages families to talk to the school nurse about their concerns.
Parents should try to schedule appointments before or after school hours. If children must attend appointments during the school day, they should return immediately afterward so they do not miss the entire day.