How to Handle Young Kids When You Don’t Feel Well
I have an autoimmune disease. There have been many times where I’ve had to parent my kids when I was recovering from a medical procedure or just not feeling well. So I know a thing or two about parenting while ill.
You don’t have to have a chronic illness to have days where you are too sick to parent. Cold and flu season is in full effect. If you have kids in school or daycare, they’re going to get sick…and then you will get sick. Unfortunately, by the time you catch it, they’ll be on the upswing and full of energy.
So what can you do to reduce illness or at least cope when it does invade your home? Hopefully, your family has already gotten flu shots to prevent the flu. Even if you’re crazy about sanitizing and are on high alert for germ reduction, unfortunately, sick will come into your home at some point this season.
Trust me, it isn’t easy taking care of little ones when you aren’t well. So, what can you do if you get sick but still need to parent your little ones?
Tips for Parenting While Ill
Here are some tips for getting through the day, or week, when you aren’t feeling well but still have to parent your kids.
- Lower your standards:
I recently went out of town, leaving my husband alone with our 3 year old and 7 year old. My mom asked how my husband did and my response was, everyone was alive and fed. This needs to be where you set the bar when you are sick. Why is it OK for your husband but not for you?
As long as your kids are alive and fed, you’re good. The house doesn’t have to be clean when you are sick. The laundry can wait until you’re better. Take out, fast food, or frozen food are perfectly acceptable meals when you don’t feel well (of even if you are well). Pretty much most tasks can wait until you feel better.
- Don’t be the entertainment:
I don’t remember my mom playing with me every minute of the day when I was a kid. Maybe she did before my brother came along, but I really don’t remember. I turned out fine. Your kids will turn out fine if you let them fend for themselves for entertainment when you are sick.
This is the time to let them watch their favorite TV shows. If you are up for it, you can have them lay with you and read them stories. You can also set up some independent play activities like blocks, dolls, trains, etc. so that they can entertain themselves near you.
You’d be surprised by how much they understand. My three year old is a really strong-willed kid. Somehow, he understands when mama isn’t feeling well and he is the one who comes and snuggles next to me.
- Set up a self-service system:
I never notice how many beverages and snacks I serve up until I’m not feeling well and have to keep getting up for another snack or beverage. Avoid the constant up and down by filling up several sippy cups or water bottles and setting out several snacks. Again, you are in low-maintenance mode, so the snacks don’t have to be fresh cut fruit. This is the time to pull out the packaged snacks – granola bars, goldfish crackers, etc.
- Prep ahead before you get sick:
It may be too late the first time you get sick, but when you feel better, prepare yourself for the next time. Pre-make and freeze a few casseroles or soups so that you can just heat and eat the next time you feel sick. You can also keep your home stocked with some pre-made meals (frozen meals, canned soup, pasta sauce and pasta).
- Stop germ spread:
Try to keep you illness contained so that you don’t have to deal with caring for a sick husband when you’re on the mend. Wash your hands frequently, clean doorknobs, light switches and other frequently touched surfaces with sanitizer. Also make sure everyone gets enough rest, eats well and constantly wash their hands.
- Let your kids care for you:
If your kids are old enough, they can care for you. My 7 year old can bring me water or an easy snack. My three year old can bring me a blanket. Kids love caring for their parents! Give them the opportunity.
- Enlist help:
This is the time to ask for help. If you have local family, ask your parents to come help. If your spouse can, ask him to work from home. If you have neither, maybe a friend can watch your kids for a few hours so that you can rest. Don’t feel guilty asking for help. You can always pay it forward the next time you’re well.
How To Avoid Getting Sick
I take medication that suppresses my immune system so I get sick a lot. I have managed to avoid illnesses whenever I can by practicing some of the recommendations below. It is really difficult to avoid getting sick when you are burning the candle at both ends. Taking better care of yourself is essential to your health and well-being. You know what you need to do to stay healthy, but it is hard to do when you’re so busy caring for others.
Here are your reminders:
- Eat healthy: You don’t have to eat organic, healthy fresh foods all the time. Just take some health shortcuts whenever you can.
- Exercise: No, you don’t need to start hitting the gym every day for an hour. Just squeezing in a bit of regular exercise can provide health benefits. Start taking a walk when you have free time. Do some stretches and strength training at home – whatever it takes to stay physically active.
- Practice Self-Care: Constant stress can lead to health problems. Try incorporating self-care into your day or week to help relieve stress.
- Sleep Well: Practice good sleep hygiene to get a good night’s rest. Not getting enough sleep results in many health problems.
- Pop Vitamins: It can be hard to get all of the nutrients you need from food alone, especially if you aren’t able to cook regular healthy meals. Add vitamin supplements, especially vitamin C, to your self-care routine. You may also want to consider upping your vitamin intake if you are feeling a bit under the weather or around people who are sick. My favorite is EmergenC, but my brother loves Zicam and Airborne.
- Avoid Germs: If someone in your home is sick, take proper precautions. Wash your hands regularly and wipe down frequently touched surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes. I know, it’s annoying, but I wash my hands every time I wipe my son’s nose. I manage to avoid many colds that way, which is tough since I take immune system suppression medication.
Parenting while sick is difficult so give yourself space to rest and take care of yourself. Our kids are probably more capable than we give them credit for. I am constantly amazed over what kids in other countries are expected to do. I also see some of my friends kids doing things I wouldn’t have thought my kids are capable of doing.
I have made the mistake of pushing through illness and it rarely ends well. The holiday season is always my busiest time with work and family. For three years straight, I worked myself so hard that I ended up getting too sick to enjoy the holidays. One year I got the flu (despite a flu shot), a double ear infection, bronchitis and pink eye – all at the same time. Our bodies tell us when it has had enough. Don’t push your body so far that it sets off alarms to slow you down.