What to do when children get sick
As tempting as it is to continue with the regular daily schedule, Liz recommends keeping children at home and rested while they are sick.
“The best thing to come out of COVID-19 is it’s changed the culture of dosing sick children with medication and sending them to day care, or still turning up for that play date,” she explains.
She also recommends extra sleep and access to comfort and cuddles, “children will feel miserable when they are sick, just like adults do when we get a cold”.
Liz says lots of small sips of water and trying to get in good, healthy meals, when you can, will also help.
“It’s also about managing symptoms with paracetamol and ibuprofen,” she adds.
If the child is sick for more than three days and their symptoms aren’t improving, Liz recommends taking them to the family GP.
“I also recommend seeing a GP if children are continuously sick, sure, it might just be another virus, but it could also be something else, like large, inflamed adenoids, which might need a referral to a specialist,” she says.
Liz advises being aware of children with repeated ear infections as it can affect their speech development and recommends parents talk to their GP if they have any concerns.
Being an employee and parent
The most recent census data found that 66.4 per cent of couple families with dependants had both parents working.
As for one parent families with dependants, 61 per cent were employed.
The guilt of calling in sick (again) and arguments over whose turn it is (with those who have partners), can add stress to parents who try to balance their work commitments with their parenting responsibilities.
“Organisations offer the legislated ten days of personal/carer’s leave which is available to employees when there is a need to care for a sick child,” says Kiri Stejko, Chief Services Officer at Parents At Work.
“Beyond that, unpaid leave or flexible work options may be requested.”
Kiri says workplaces are more flexible than they were five or ten years ago.
She suggests that there might be options to work from home when children are unwell and recommends parents accept offers of help (or ask for help) from family and friends before requesting unpaid leave.
“When you return to work or start a new role, it is important to discuss the expectation to be juggling work and sick children with your employer and agree a rough plan for how to approach these situations,” she adds.
As for whose turn it is to stay home, it often appears women take on more than their fair share.
In a 2014 US study, the authors found mothers were ten times more likely to take time off work to care for sick children than fathers.
“Traditionally, women hold the lion’s share of caring responsibilities, but we are seeing this shift when there are two career focused parents – and then it’s a matter of negotiation – whoever can move things around more easily on that day, takes care of the sick child,” adds Kiri.
As for working single parent families, Kiri says the biggest challenge is that there is no ability to “share the load” so the impact is greater unless there is support from extended family.
“The ‘sick stage’ is a common problem, millions of parents around the globe are dealing with managing work and sick children every day, so it’s not something we should shy away from talking about or being open about in conversations with employers,” says Kiri.
“Soldiering on to the detriment of our own health is not a good strategy.
“It is important to prioritise care for both children and parents.”