Parents are responsible for their children’s well-being. This means that they must take steps to prevent, assess and treat health conditions. This can sometimes be frightening for parents, especially when a child is dealing with real health issues.
If you are a parent responsible for keeping your child healthy, consider the following tips:
Do What is Normal and Reasonable
Taking care of a child’s health does not mean putting him in a protective bubble where no germs, illness or accidents can occur. Life happens and parents don’t have complete control over circumstances that can affect their child. In fact, it is not a parent’s job to ensure that the child never experiences illness or pain, because this task is just not possible. What IS possible, however, is feeding the child a decent diet that provides necessary elements of nutrition, seeing that the child gets fresh air and exercise, dressing the child appropriately for various weather conditions and taking the child to his doctor for routine wellness checkups. Other than that, parents can and should allow their child to do what other kids in the neighborhood do: go swimming, have occasional junk food, skip bath night once in awhile, or even go outdoors for a short time despite having a very minor fever. In other words, there is no need to be hypervigilant. Kids are not that fragile. A germ or two might, according to some opinions, actually help build the immune system. People in this school of thought believe that over-protection actually makes the child more vulnerable to disease and accidents. Use common sense. This isn’t an invitation to send the child out into the cold night in nothing but his pajamas! However, it IS an invitation not to get hysterical if the child refuses to wear a scarf on a cool day. Do your best but be normal. Excessive fear on your part may cause the child to become fearful as well. Interestingly, fear does NOT prevent illness and if anything, may actually weaken the immune system.
Develop Healthy Routines
Although there is no need to be “germ phobic,” you can certainly help minimize contagious conditions like colds, flus and viruses in your home. Teach your kids basic hygiene. For instance, show them how to sneeze onto their sleeve rather than into their hand. When someone is sick, make sure that person has his or her own towel and cup. Even if you don’t normally use antibacterial products, this may be the time to do so. Consider spraying the living area with a mixture of essential oils that prevent germs from spreading (speak to an aromatherapist to learn how to do this). Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating, especially if they’ve been playing outside. Teach kids to brush their teeth twice daily. Help children get the right amount of sleep each night.
Do Not Give Special Attention to Sick Children
Make sure you give special attention to your healthy child! Being sick should not earn extra quality time or special privileges. You don’t want your child to learn that there is a payoff for being ill because this can lead to an increase in psychosomatic illness as well as “pretend” illness. A child who must stay home from school due to illness should NOT receive a free play day filled with treats and fun activities. Rather, he or she should be encouraged to rest and recover. Let school be more interesting than a day at home. Instead of encouraging children to get sick in order to get a day off of school every once in awhile, just offer them “mental health” days a couple of times a year – days when they are perfectly healthy and are taken out of school for quality time. Doing this one one or two days a year teaches children that it is possible to manage stress levels WITHOUT getting sick to do so.
Attend to Your Own Fears and Anxieties
If you find that you get very worried every time you or a family member has a bump, cough, pain or other physical distress, seek professional help. The right kind of help can reduce or even eliminate this kind of fear and help you enjoy life much more. Children get all sorts of symptoms, ranging from inconsequential to serious. You and your child will both cope better if you are able to maintain a calm state of mind. Many people have serious fears about illness, fearing that every minor symptom (in themselves or in someone close to them) indicates a deathly illness. This condition is called hypochondriosis. It can be treated by a mental health professional.