We’ve all been through it: a child home, sick, while the work of our days grinds to a halt. But no matter how often it happens, I always find myself reinventing the wheel of caretaking. I wonder about how best to keep them comfortable while they recuperate; decide on the most beneficial ratio of cartoons to sleep; discover ways to tempt them into eating as they mend.
Every child is different, and every sickness is different, but there are some relative constants, too. First, there is an expectation of discomfort. Second, there is an expectation of healing. It’s what happens in between those two parameters that keep me worried. I’ve tried, though, to come up with some general reminders on which I can fall back when my caretaking doubts surface through the haze of fevers and skipped meals. Here’s what I try to do for my kids when they are sick:
Skip the rules. One of my greatest confusions when a child is sick is whether or not I should allow more movies and cartoons than usual. I fear the repercussions, worrying that they’ll become used to the mind-numb and be crabby when we return to our usual, lower-volume viewing. But after several bouts of sickness, I’ve made up my mind: we will watch. For hours, if it makes them forget their discomfort. The kids may end up falling asleep anyway, at which point I can sneak them off to their beds. But sticking to normal rules in sick-time is pointless for our family. I remind myself to be flexible.
Skip the food. For as many years as I’ve begged and bribed and cajoled food into my sometimes-picky children’s mouths, it’s felt completely unnatural – harmful, even – to NOT try to get them to eat. But when they’re sick, it’s alright. As long as they’re uninterested in food, it’s okay to forget about it for a day or so. After that, we’ll try to tempt them with small bits of easy food to see if it perks them up. Toast is always our first offering, with applesauce following soon after. As long as they’re sleeping and healing, food just isn’t a top priority. I remind myself to be patient.
Skip the boredom. When a nasty bug keeps a child home, it can be easy to fall into misery-inducing boredom. There’s no reason why, if my little one is able to whine and wander, we can’t also do something active. Make a tummy-pleasing treat. Do a relaxing, quiet craft. Take a fresh-air walk. Lying around is important and worthwhile up to a certain point, but our brains and bodies thrive on stimulation, too. I remind myself to be creative.
Skip the plans. As soon as I have a day completely filled with plans and errands, one of the kids inevitably gets sick. There is no POSSIBLE way I can drop all of my plans, I think rebelliously. But wiping the day clean of obligation is often just what my family needs to get back on track. I’m convinced that snuggles are just as important as rest while a child is sick. Cuddling may not remove the germs any sooner, but moments of care teach our kids about compassion and priorities. I remind myself to be close.
It’s good to have these thoughts in reserve, because where there are kids, there will be sick days. And for this worried mama, nothing feels better than being prepared.
How does your family adapt for sick days? Snuggle everyone in bed? Call in Grandparental reinforcements? Adopt an ice-cream only diet? Share!