When children get sick, as they inevitably do, we often ponder about how much to “baby” them or just how to care for them. What mother has not sat by the side of a sick child and thought, “I’d rather it were me feeling that way than my child”? It hurts us emotionally while at the same time it is hurting the child physically.
Of course, we try to do all we can to prevent that sickness in the first place. We encourage the children to wash their hands often, singing “Happy Birthday” while scrubbing with soap and warm water to make sure the hands are scrubbed long enough to get clean. We do our best to make sure the child has plenty of fruit and vegetables in the diet to provide the vitamin C and other nutrients needed to fight the germs. We try to see that the child is dressed properly for the cold weather, and we try to keep the child away from places where we know germs are present. In spite of all our care, we often feel at least a little guilt when the child gets sick as we wonder if we did all we could have done to prevent the illness.
There are actually some positive things that come from sickness. One such positive learning is that children come to realize that they are vulnerable. Many young people often feel as though they can do anything and nothing bad will ever happen. Sickness teaches a child that we each need to be careful with how we care for ourselves. A time of sickness in the home can become a time of bonding between family members as all pitch in and help the sick one. The sick child may learn to appreciate the love and care of others. A third benefit is a possible development of sympathy and understanding of others when they become sick. It seems that we can never truly appreciate the feelings of others until we, ourselves, have experienced what they are going through. People who seldom get sick often are impatient with those who do get sick more often.
How much care should be given to a sick child? In my opinion, we need to take advantage of this time to “coddle” the child a bit. There are, of course, occasions when this is not true. If a child starts to take advantage of the extra attention, we need to back off. When a child is truly sick, however, that child needs assurance of love and care. We need a balance of not seeming overly concerned but, at the same time, children need to know that we wish the best for them. To this day, I can remember my mom’s hand on my forehead when, as a child, I would get sick and throw up. I’m sure that hand did no physical good, but it showed that she cared. Another memory is a time when my dad brought a pretty colored ear of corn from the field for me when I had tonsillitis.
Should a child be allowed to watch TV? Yes, but only educational programs. Should a child do homework? The child should do homework only if he/she is not feeling too badly. I would not force it but would check occasionally to see if he/she feels like it, and then I would give assistance. Should a child be allowed to get up and run around? Generally, we need to allow a child to do what that child feels like doing until the temperature has been normal for at least 24 hours. Then the child probably needs to go back to school. Sometimes, medicine can make a child feel better while he/she is getting worse. This may be the case when medicine is given to treat symptoms only and the medicine does not treat the cause of the symptoms.
We probably will not do everything perfectly when our children get sick. We simply try to give proper physical and emotional care to the best of our ability and pray that the Great Physician will do whatever else is needed.
Note: I will be speaking at “Meet the Authors Day” at 12:50 p.m., February 2, at Kimberling Library. I would enjoy meeting you there.