Winter Chills and Childhood Ills

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Dear Parent Coach,
The “sick season” started at our house over the holidays, and everyone seems to have caught something. Now we are heading back to school. When the kids are sick enough to stay home from school, I feel guilty letting them watch DVDs all day. What other things might keep them entertained?
Signed, Nurse Mom

Dear Mom,
You’re right! The after-holiday parade of illnesses has begun and may predictably spread quickly both at school and throughout the family with one malady after another. So it’s best to be prepared. With a little forethought about food and activities, you will be more ready to accept and weather the storm of winter illness.
Stock your winter cupboard with chicken noodle and other soups, crackers, 7-Up, mac and cheese, tea and toast, orange juice, applesauce, Jell-O and tapioca pudding, or whatever items make your children feel comforted when they’re sick.
Also purchase ingredients for at least two emergency evening meals, knowing it will be harder for you to run out to the grocery store for supplies when children are at home.
Make a trip to the pharmacy now to get a fresh supply of all the remedies you like best for colds and flu. Other comfort items might include flannel sheets, a hot water bottle, a moist air vaporizer, and a good supply of Kleenex.
Here are some additional ideas that may help your sick children get through the day or days at home. Of course, each child will come up with some creative ideas of his or her own as well:

1. Set up a breakfast-in-bed tray for doing activities in bed.
2. Save a special Sick Day Box with new activities reserved only for those days at home (new books, music and book CDs, new crayons or markers and paper, stickers, simple crafts, Etch-a-Sketch, paper dolls, a flashlight, small toys, etc.)
3. Take time to play a board game or teach a new card game to your child.
4. For young children, a mid-day bath with toys and bathtub finger-paints can break up the boredom.
5. Gather favorite stuffed animals to share the sick bed.
6. Food delivered on a tray is always a treat. Cut sandwiches into stars. Use flexible straws for drinks. “Toast fingers” (toast cut into thin rectangles) were our family sick-day favorite. Baked apples make the whole house smell good.
7. Give a back rub or foot massage (for a long illness).
8. Place a bell by your child’s bed to ring for help.
9. Your child might want to hang out in the family room during the day.
10. A little screen time is OK — a portable DVD player in bed is extra fun.
11. Let your child be a part of your “at home” work — like helping you fold laundry.
12. Read several favorite books aloud — climb in bed with your child — or start a chapter book.
13. Play some soothing music for afternoon rest time.
14. Have afternoon tea with your child.
15. Bundle up and take a short walk in the fresh air.
16. If necessary, contact your child’s teacher for homework. Alternate homework with fun.
Granted, having a child at home will cause an interruption in your day’s plans or cause you to miss a day at work. It can be very frustrating to have to alter what you wanted to get accomplished in your day.
Try to rearrange your busy day so you can relax and spend some special time with your child — they will love this rare, one-on-one time and attention, and you may actually enjoy a slower paced day at home. The errands can wait.
Remember that what sick children may crave most when they aren’t feeling well, is just a little extra TLC from Mom or Dad.
Remind yourself that this won’t last forever, although it may seem like it when child No. 2 comes down with the same illness.
When you begin to get a case of cabin fever, give yourself a lift, and ask a friend to bring you a latte or your favorite salad. Spending a little time sharing how challenging parenthood can be usually helps.
Ultimately, your focused care and availability may prove to be the best remedy for any illness your child has this winter.

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