Surviving Sick Days

by | Feb. 19, 2010


Sick days don't have to be torture for you and your kids. If you use them right, sick days can allow for some great parent-child bonding time.

Whiner or Wild Child? Some kids are horrible patients. You know the type: they whine and complain and groan. Although you shouldn't ignore your child's sickness, make sure they aren't taking advantage of your service. Give them what they need, but be clear that being sick doesn't warrant the royal treatment. Keep them busy with activities and they won't need to whine.

On the other end of the spectrum are kids who refuse to be sick. Even when they're feeling under the weather, they insist on running around instead of giving their bodies time to recover. Keep these children busy with fun, low-key activities throughout the recovery period.

Activities: Fun and Fruitful Be sure sick days aren't an excuse for your child to veg out on TV and video games (which might make him more likely to trick you in the future). Sick days can be a chance for children to be creative and spend some one-on-one time with Mom or Dad. But how do you entertain both the whiner and the wild child? Here are some ideas:

1. Challenge your child to a draw-off. Come up with a theme (such as space) or find an object and encourage her to use either imagination or to work on her drawing skills. You can join her, too, and evaluate the pictures afterward. You can also print coloring pages at, or find hidden pictures and games at

2. Choose crafts. Kids can make simple, low-maintenance crafts on sick days. Try a simple collage by cutting out pictures from newspapers and magazines. Visit for more ideas.

3. Let your child explore artwork through playing with clay, watercolors, or finger paints.

4. Hands-on activities are always fun for kids. Don't forget about Legos or Play-Doh. To make edible Peanut Butter Play Doe, mix 1 cup creamy peanut butter, 1 cup corn syrup, 1 1/4 cup non-fat dry milk, and 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

5. Dig out those classic games like Candy Land and Go Fish. Video games may come and go, but classic games never lose their appeal.

6. Get out. If your child is cooped up for too long, he may get restless. If he is feeling up to it, go for a short walk or drive.

7. Let your child create her own story book or comic book. Give her paper and markers and let her loose. If she's stuck on story ideas, visit When she's finished, have her read you the masterpiece.

8. Speaking of reading, when is the last time you read to your child? Now is the perfect time to snuggle up with a good book.

Keeping Kids Healthy Of course, each child will have a different activity level depending on how sick he is. Helping your child return to health should be the top priority.

If the doctor prescribes medicine, make sure your child is informed about how much medicine she needs and how it will help her. Tell your child when she needs to take the medicine and have her remind you when it's time. This helps children become responsible for their own recovery.

For colds and flu, make sure your child drinks lots of water and juice. And feed children soft foods like the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer close to the bed will also prevent your child from passing germs to other objects and teach your child about the importance of sanitation.

Once they've recovered, children should be reminded of good health habits like washing hands and eating healthy foods.

What about Faking? What if your child just wants to skip school? Although sometimes it's hard to tell whether your child is really sick, here are some tips:

  1. Be aware of your child's normal patterns. How does he usually act when he's sick? Does it seem like he's sick now?
  2. Is there something going on at school that your child may want to avoid? If so, she may just be experiencing nervousness or fear. Talk to her about what she may be worried about.
  3. Watch to see if playing sick is a habit with your child. Is your child "sick" during school but healthy on the weekends?
  4. Do you give your kid gifts or other incentives when he's sick? If so, he would have good motivation to skip school. Be sure to restrict certain activities so kids know sick days aren't a vacation.
Remember to be sensitive to your child's pains. Depression or anxiety may also cause pains that doctors can't find, and these are important problems to be aware of. If your child doesn't feel better in a few days, give the doctor a call.

When Should Kids Go Back to School? When you think your child is ready to return to school, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is she running a temperature? If so, it's probably a good idea to keep her at home. Other signs that a child should be kept home include persistent symptoms (such as diarrhea) other than a phlegmy cough.
  2. Is he still in the early stages of a contagious sickness? If so, wait a bit before sending him back to school. You certainly don't want him to make other kids sick.
  3. Is your child returning to a normal energy and activity level? If not, it's a sure sign recuperation isn't complete.
Use your children's sick days to increase your bond with them. Get involved in their activities: paint with them, help them with crafts, or play games with them. If you use them right, sick days can provide memories for your children--occasions they got to spend one-on-one time with Mom or Dad.
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