7 Tips For Surviving The Holidays When The Kids (Or Grandkids) Are Sick

When my children were small I could always count on one thing; if they were going to be sick it would be on the weekend or a holiday. I called it Murphy's Law of parenting. I didn't realize that once we had grandchildren the cycle would start over.
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When my children were small I could always count on one thing; if they were going to be sick it would be on the weekend or a holiday. I called it Murphy's Law of parenting. I didn't realize that once we had grandchildren the cycle would start over.

The Thanksgiving That Almost Didn't Happen

Last year we had plans to have our Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's house, but that didn't happen. We actually celebrate the day after Thanksgiving at our house so that our children can be with their spouses' families first. On Thanksgiving Day my daughter and her husband took their two children to his parent's house.

Picture the whole family gathered around the table. My son-in-law's brother (who is unmarried and has no children) is holding his two-year-old niece, (my granddaughter). My son-in-law is saying the blessing for the meal. My daughter hears her daughter cough and opens one eye just to check on things. At that moment my granddaughter vomits, which causes her uncle to freak and run with her to the bathroom. My daughter takes off in hot pursuit and my son-in-law ... he just kept praying.

Needless to say Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's house the next day was canceled.

In the meantime my son called to say that their two children had the bug and his wife had to work so they would be staying home. Call me hard-headed but I was raised believing The Show Must Go On. I went ahead and cooked a complete Thanksgiving meal. The whole time I was cooking I was wondering who would be the next one to succumb to the virus. After I got the food ready, Bill (my husband) and I delivered 10 to-go plates of Thanksgiving food. Those of us who weren't sick ate together later. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind but we were all very thankful for a lot of things, number one being that we didn't have the nasty virus!

The Spring Break I'll Never Forget

Years ago when our five children were still at home we had a tradition of going to Florida on spring break. We would load up the van and spend five or six days at the beach. The kids always took a friend or two along. The more the merrier, right?

We live 10 hours from Florida so it's a very long trip. One year, somewhere between Tennessee and Alabama, one of the twins started throwing up. By the time we got to Florida the other twin was puking. It was the week from you know where. The condo had two bathrooms and you had to stand in line for a turn at the toilet. I think I saw the ocean from the van window as we left to go back home, but I really didn't care.

Having five sick kids, plus their friends, and being sick myself gave new meaning to Dorothy's famous line in The Wizard of Oz ... There's no place like home ... especially when you are vomiting and have diarrhea.

Holiday Sickness

So what do you do if a child or grandchild is sick during the holidays? Here are some things I did when my kids were young. Maybe some of them will help you.

1. If possible keep the child who is sick confined to a specific area of the house. If they share a room with a sibling try moving the sibling to a different space for the length of the illness. They will probably still get it, but it's worth a shot.

2. Use disinfectant wipes and Lysol spray on surfaces where germs lurk. Door knobs, counter tops, television remotes and phones are some of the more popular germ catching places.

3. If the sick child feels well enough to look at books or color, make sure they have supplies in their room. Watching movies or reading books are great activities for keeping a sick child still. iPads and computers can keep them entertained too, as long as they are monitored or have software on them to prevent them from straying from kid friendly sites. Find holiday movies they haven't seen before to keep them entertained. If they feel up to it, let them wrap a present or two. Who cares what the wrapping looks like. If it keeps them busy and happy it's worth it.

4. Keep medicines like children's fever medication, Pedialyte, popsicles, etc. in plentiful supply so you don't have to run to the store.

5. Wash your hands and don't just stick them under the faucet and get them wet. Really wash them! Here is the correct way from the CDC website.

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

6. No one likes being sick, and it's especially disappointing to have a child in the family sick during the holidays. Our oldest son had asthma and excitement always triggered asthma attacks. I spent many holidays giving him breathing treatments and trying to keep him calm.

Our daughter had pneumonia when she was four-years-old and had to be hospitalized the week before Christmas. We set up a little tree with lights in her room and made the best of a bad situation.

One of the most important things a parent can do when their child is sick during the holidays or any time, is to take care of themselves. I know that may sound selfish but it's not. The caregiver of a sick child risks being sick themselves. Try to eat healthy, get a decent amount of sleep. Find someone to relieve you a few times a day so you can shower, get out of the house for a few minutes and if possible, get a little exercise. Those things will relieve stress and increase your odds of staying healthy.

7. Try to remember that a virus doesn't last forever. It just feels like it does. The year we had the awful spring break has gone down in history as one of our most memorable vacations. We still talk about it, laugh about it, and remember how we had to wait in line for the bathroom. It wasn't funny at the time but we survived and you will too!

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