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Can your child attend kindy/ school when they’re sick?

If Only They'd Told Me Podcast

When Jack was 8 months old I enrolled him in day-care so I could return to the workforce. I remember turning up for his first day and being shocked at how many lotions and potions were kept up on the shelf behind the head teacher’s desk. Each labelled with a different child’s name and instructions.

“Goodness,” I remarked to the Head Teacher, “surely they shouldn’t even be attending day care if thy are sick enough to need medicine?”

She raised her eyebrows in silent agreement and muttered, “I couldn’t agree more.”

I was enraged. Their children would be affecting my children in being allowed to attend whilst obviously still riddled with bugs.

Sure enough, Week 2 saw Jack come down with his first sickness bug and I understood why my father-in-law insisted in calling day-care ‘the petrie dish’. As the weeks went on, I started to also realise my initial naivety. Jack came down with every bug going – at one point every week for a straight 8 weeks we got phone-calls from day-care for some thing or another…vomiting, diarrhoea, chesty coughs, green snotty noses…but, oh my goodness, I had work…I couldn’t keep taking time off like this.

It became a case of hard negotiation with my husband. On a typical day, the mobile would ring (by that point I knew the number by heart), on taking the call and establishing the cause of this particular reason to have to pick Jack up early, I would then call my husband and we would negotiate based on whose day at work was the most important.

For instance, on one occasion I called Hubbie to tell him that one of us needed to pick up Jack, to which he replied: “But I’m about to go into a meeting.” “But so am I,” I replied, “is yours an external or an internal meeting?” “Internal,” he replied haltingly. “Hah! Mine’s external!” I triumphed, “Your turn!”

Every call from day-care resulted in a similar conversation. I realised why stressed-out parents would ‘pretend’ their child was better and force them to go back earlier than perhaps they would be ready.

Years later I am still in the same position. When your child is sick all they want is for you to nurture them, to hold them and comfort them. And you want to do that too. But, if you are working or juggling other commitments then you need to do some serious reorganising too.

Last week, Jack was sick again. This time he was 6 years old (not 6 months) but he was pale, eyes sunken, washed out, feverish and just wanting to be cuddled by mum and dad. John and I took it in turns. John took Day one at home and was able to reorganise his work to the following day. I took Day two (I got the better end of the bargain as the vomiting had stopped by then). Technology allowed me to Skype in to a meeting and do much of my work from a laptop at home. By Day 3 he was better and able to return to school. We were lucky – it was just a bug and only lasted a couple of days. But it is a juggle and I know many a parent who has forced her child back to school probably earlier than they should have because of busy lives.

So, these are the rules:

  1. Sickness and diarrhoea mean a child should not come into contact with other people for at least 24 hours from their last bout of illness.
  2. Green snot means they have an infection – keep them at home.
  3. Chesty coughs are contagious for the first 48hrs.
  4. Teach your child to cover their mouths after coughing, to sneeze into hankies and tissues – not into hands, to wash their hands regularly.
  5. Wipe down and disinfect surfaces, phones, door handles and any other regularly touched surfaces as often as possible.

Okay admit it – have you taken a sick child to school or kindy knowingly???

If Only They'd Told Me Podcast

Written by

Jacqui Lockington is a working mum. Jacqui works full-time for an advertising agency in New Zealand and juggles life at work with being mum to two young children, Jack and Sasha. Jacqui is married to John and has published her first book with co-author, Nat - If Only They'd Told Me. She does public speaking and regularly blogs and records podcasts. Jacqui trained in journalism in London and worked in radio, newspapers, public relations and advertising before moving to New Zealand where she currently lives with her family. You can contact Jacqui at
  • Anna Pease

    This is great and I think the rules are very sensible! It’s so hard to have that feeling of just wanting to stay home with a little one who is poorly but then all the guilt of all the other stuff you’re ‘supposed’ to be doing! We need more understanding employers and flexible working arrangements to support families in this situation! xx

  • Kasey Potter

    i think the rules are fair i dont think children should be at kindy if they are sick thats not fair on other children who could catch their bugs

  • Vicki Stoner

    Hard to keep sick kids home really when every other kid is sick at daycare.

  • Katie

    Ok, I think I am going to shake things up a bit and I am not sure how you will take this, but here goes? All of what you are saying gives even more reason for either a stay at home or work from home Mom or Dad. As you talk about your sweet little Jack, and assume he is the only child in your family so far, I wonder about how parents juggle things with more than one child. Some parents are very responsible with keeping their sick children home from daycare, or school, but others aren’t so dilligent, and the responsible parents aren’t going to change the irresponsible ones. If one parent were a stay at home parent, at least until the child was in grade school, then the child will get to be raised and nurtured and cared for by a parent, not a day care worker, when he is sick, and all his needs would be met by somebody who truly loves them. My vote is for one stay at home or work from home parent.

    • Jacqui Lockington

      Oh yes, I do agree. At the time, yes, Jack was my one and only child and I was so determined that my first child wouldn’t change my life that I went back to work without a backwards glance. Child #2 was different. I realised how hard it was after child no. 1 trying to juggle children and work and I recognised it would just get harder so I decided that for me too, staying-at-home would be the best option. I therefore went from full-time working mum to full-time stay-at-home mum looking after two little ones and did that for four years before returning to the work-force. It was the best thing I ever did and I still value that beautiful time at home. I was very lucky to be able to afford to do that! Not everyone can. Thank you for your comments. x