Making Sick Days Better

Filed under: Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Family Time, Expert Advice: Home Base

kathy peel family manager

It happens to every mom. On the day you're giving a presentation or attending an important event, your child says, Mommy, my tummy feels funny.

One memorable morning I was dressing for a meeting when first-grader James announced that he was feeling icky. I asked if any of his classmates had been ill, and in vivid detail he reported how Elizabeth had "hurled chunks" all over his spelling paper the day before. This was my clue to shift into Sick Day Routine, because it wouldn't be long before James would lose his breakfast, followed by his brothers...and possibly my husband and me. One time we all became ill within hours of each other on the same day. It wasn't pretty.

Let's just say that experience is a great teacher, so over the years I've collected quite a few strategies for handling sick days, including creative low-key activities to keep kids entertained. Try some of these ideas to make the time easier for your child -- and for you.

First and foremost, be prepared. Keep your medicine cabinet well stocked with necessary over-the-counter medications and medical supplies.

Have your child's medical history information and pharmacy number handy, and be ready to answer the following questions before you call.

  • Any changes in your child's behavior, appearance, bowel movements, appetite, or breathing?
  • If your child is old enough, ask him what hurts. Have him use his hands to show you. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is the pain?
  • Does he have fever? What is his temperature?
  • Remove an infant's or young child's clothing to look for any visual body changes. Is anything swollen? Is there a rash?
  • What medication your child is taking -- prescription name, strength and dosage?

If you need to see the doctor, try to schedule the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after lunch. It's less likely you'll have to wait.

sick childCall before you leave for the appointment. If your doctor is running late, ask the office if it's okay if you arrive a little late so your child won't have to wait as long at the office.

Always take your calendar or PDA with you to an appointment so you can schedule your next visit while you're there.

Designate a specific place to write down when medicine is given, and how much.

Use your kitchen timer or cell phone to alert you when doses of medicine should be given.

Now for the fun. Create a special box that you hide and get out only on sick days. Fill it with age-appropriate activities -- coloring books, stickers, puzzles and such. Older children might enjoy a model or craft project.

Designate a spot in your pantry for "sick foods" like chicken noodle soup, clear sodas, flavored gelatin, electrolyte drinks and crackers. Tell family members these items are for sick days only.

Call your child's school and ask if you can pick up schoolwork.

If your child is confined to bed and wants you nearby but doesn't feel like playing, take advantage of the time. Fold clothes, organize drawers or do some mending that you can't get done when the family schedule is running full throttle.

If a caregiver is in charge of your child while you are out of reach, leave a signed Medical Emergency Consent form in case medical treatment is needed. Download free copies here.

If you find yourself feeling frustrated because you missed that meeting or didn't accomplish what you'd planned, remember: The hours spent beside a child's sickbed can be tender moments that are remembered and appreciated long after they're grown.

What are your biggest challenges when a child becomes ill?

Kathy Peel's latest book, The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home, received the 2009 Mom's Choice Award for Best Parenting and Family Resource.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.