Sick-Day Solutions

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    Fortunately, it hasn’t been anything serious. Illness in our house has been limited to the standard stuff: viruses, strep throat, croup, strep throat, pinkeye, hand foot and mouth disease – and did I mention strep throat?

    My boys come home regularly with notes saying an illness has been reported at school. Then comes the dread of wondering when we’ll battle the next malady.

    First, you hope it isn’t serious, and then you hope it’s quickly treatable. At what seemed like countless visits, our family doctor would say, “It’s probably a virus. It’s hard to say.” I would then call our in-home child care provider, so she could warn her other families of what contagious bug might be lurking in the next few days. The only information I could pass on might be the symptoms and the doctor’s “it’s hard to say,” while we all waited it out.

    There are times when kids are so sick that boredom isn’t a factor. Then there are times when your kids are itching for adventure. So what do you do when everyone’s ready to climb the walls?

    1. Keep it fresh.

    For the novelty factor, keep a supply of activities that are reserved only for these occasions. A farm-themed Lego set or your vintage Nancy Drew books may work as a special lift to the spirit.

    2. Make it portable.

    Use a cardboard box or laundry basket to store those sick-day-only toys. Your child can prop it on the bed, or it can be toted to the living room sofa if a change of scenery is needed. When you’re not Taking temperatures or handing out another popsicle, jot down a list of your child’s favorite quiet activities. Consider trying a lap desk stocked with crayons, washable markers, colored pencils, coloring books, puzzles, word searches, sticker books, card games, and seek and find books.

    3. Get some fresh air.

    Weather permitting, open a window or go outside for short spurts. Venture out for a wagon ride or a short stroll in your neighborhood. Sit a spell on the deck or porch. If going outside isn’t feasible, try a special indoor scavenger hunt.

    4. Be creative.

    Think of all the fun kids can have with a little imagination and aluminum foil, cardboard tubes of all sizes, cotton balls, and paper plates and bags. These supplies are great for kids from toddlers through pre-teens.

    5. Drive through and drive on.

    Check out the drive-in theater in Goochland or your local carwash. Take a spin for a special treat. We like Krispy Kreme donuts! Or, go to your favorite drive-through restaurant for a hot chocolate or milkshake to sooth sore throats. If nothing else, you should get a latte to boost your energy for the day.

    6. Cook up some fun.

    Prepare fluid-friendly foods together (after proper hand washing, of course). Make your own smoothies, popsicles or jello. Involve your child in the process by Giving him or her choices and encourage them to help read the recipe, add, and stir ingredients.

    7. Stay snug as a bug in a rug.

    If your child is supposed to remain in bed, do what you can to make bed as cozy and enticing as possible (within safety limits, of course). Try using a sleeping bag instead of the traditional bedding or help them make a fort, a cave, a tunnel, or a zoo for their stuffed animal menagerie.

    8. Have a picnic.

    Use a blanket, pack a lunch box or cooler together, and eat inside. Imagine together the sights and sounds you would experience if you were outside at a picnic.

    9. Read, read and read.

    Try to keep some books that are new to your children stashed away for Days like these. Listen to books on CD for something different or download a podcast just for kids. If your child is old enough, encourage them to read along while listening to the book on CD.

    10. Play school.

    You can practice academic tasks such as reading and writing. If your child attends school and will be out for an extended time, contact your child’s teacher to get homework. Try to balance down-and-out time, playtime and make-up work so that your child does not get too far behind.

    11. Conserve energy – yours and theirs!

    If there are no activity restrictions, but your child tires easily, balance out more active tasks with quiet activities so they don’t get over tired. Make sure you have some quiet time, too.

    12. Plug in!

    If you regularly limit access to the computer, TV or hand held games, it will be easier for screen time to become a special treat on sick days.

    So when the high fever warning on the thermometer beeps or the school calls for you to pick them up for a run of the mill illness, and you think, Here we go again! Try to keep a positive attitude and be thankful. True, this is another virus or bout of strep throat, but it’s not serious. And hey, they are building healthy immune systems, right?

    Above all, provide what kids need most – reassurance and TLC. If your children are cuddlier when they are sick, enjoy these snuggly moments. They need them, and you know what? You do, too! N “Real Mom” Fiona Bessey-Bushnell is an occupational therapist who lives in the West End with her husband and sons, ages 2 and 4. She is hoping she won’t need to use these tips in the next few weeks!