Is It Acceptable To Keep A Child Off School Due To The Death Of A Pet

Parents have been discussing whether it is acceptable to allow a child have a day off school due to their pet dying.

A Mumsnet user explained her 13-year-old son’s pony had to be put to sleep. 

When she told him what had happened, he was “understandably devastated” and cried himself to sleep.

“He has some health issues anyway which mean he is easily fatigued and I know getting him up at 7 for school tomorrow is going to be hell on earth,” she wrote.

“He would struggle to manage the day even if he was just tired, without the emotional stuff on top.” 

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The mum said she wasn’t sure how the boy’s school would feel about his absence, adding: “Am I being unreasonable to keep him off or take him in late tomorrow? Or should I just take him in as normal?”

The majority of parents felt it was acceptable for a child to take a day off when grieving for a pet.

“Definitely let him have the day off,” advised one. “Just tell school he’s not feeling well, no need to go into detail.”

Another wrote: “I would say he’s ill, poor boy. People at my work have had the day off when their dog died. I was devastated when my 20-year-old cat died.”

Others said the mother should let her son choose whether or not he goes to school, and some strongly felt the mother shouldn’t lie to the school about her son being “ill”. 

The original poster responded and said she would be honest with the school about the pony and she expected it would be marked as an “unauthorised absence” if she did keep him home for a day.

So what is the guidance around taking children off school for the death of a pet?

The Department for Education told HuffPost UK term-time related absence is a “matter for headteachers”, so individual schools may have differing views on what reasons are acceptable for authorised absences during term-time. 

Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum.com urged parents to be honest with the school if they feel their child is not able to go in.

“Of course it’s not ideal for a child to be off, but if they are seriously struggling and even disrupting the rest of the class, then of course it’s better for them not to be there,” she told HuffPost UK.

“Most schools now recognise the importance of mental health. So bereavement in any form, and the grief which goes with it, is something they will be trained to be aware of and understand.”

As well as speaking to your child’s school, Freegard pointed out that speaking to your child about how they feel is just as important.

“Some children will want to go to school as normal to keep busy and have the support of their pals,” she said. “But others will be tearful and won’t feel up to facing school. 

“As a parent, go with your instinct if your child is young - you’ll know if they need a little time off.”

She added that t is important to take your child’s feelings seriously as this may be their first experience of grief.

“Grief is grief, and feeling the loss of a pet is no different to feeling the loss of a person, especially for young children,” she said. “Many kids see a pet as a close friend they have grown up with, so losing them can be devastating.”

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