Despite your best efforts, your child will get sick. And chances are, your child will at some point be ill enough that she’ll need to stay home from school.

Taking care of a sick child can be complicated when your child’s school and your job are involved. By working out a plan before that first sniffle, you’ll spend less time scrambling for care and arranging for makeup work, and more time doing what’s important: helping your child feel better.

Have a Plan for Child Care

“Out of 180 school days, your child is probably going to be sick for at least one of them,” says Sandi Delack, a nurse at a Rhode Island middle school and president of the National Association of School Nurses. “Just make sure you know what you’ll do,” Delack says.

Parents who work may need a to enlist a neighbor, friend, or family member to help with child care when their child is sick. Some employers may allow short-term telecommuting arrangements. Some communities have child-care facilities, often located in children’s hospitals, especially for sick children. Knowing in advance who will stay with a sick child can make an unexpected sick day that much less stressful.

Work With the School

If your child needs to stay home, work with school staff members to keep him in the loop on assignments while also allowing him time to recover. Here are some tips for helping your child stay on track at school:

  • Call the school attendance office right away to let them know your child is staying home because of an illness. If it’s a potentially contagious illness, let the office worker know so she can inform the nurse or principal.

  • Know your school’s policy on absences so you can follow proper procedure. For example, your school might require a doctor’s note for an absence of a certain length to be excused.

  • Let teachers know right away about your child’s illness and make a plan for getting her assignments. Keeping communication open with your child’s teachers throughout the illness is critical to keeping your child from falling behind.

  • If your child is likely to miss several days of school, ask the school nurse to help coordinate with teachers to get schoolwork sent home. A school nurse can work with the teachers to ensure a workload that is appropriate for a sick child.

  • Keep your child’s stress level as low as possible. Getting well is more important than completing every school assignment. Assure her that she’ll have time to make up the work she missed and that she will feel better soon. “The top priority should be letting the child’s body heal,” says Kimberly Parker, a certified clinical nurse leader at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

  • Don’t send your child back to school until his temperature has been normal for at least 24 hours. This can be hard for both parents and kids; it’s tempting to send your child back to school as soon as he feels well enough to get dressed. “Even if a child feels fine, the body is working hard to fight the illness,” Parker says. When your child is completely healthy, he can return to school rested and able to focus.

Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.