How to Care for a Sick Toddler While Being Sick Yourself

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While I was busy preparing for the first week of preschool, little did I know I also should have been mentally preparing to care for a sick child while being sick myself. Just as I started to look forward to returning to a yoga studio or shopping at Target by myself, that little bit of free time disappeared. We were both home sick the following week with a cold.

And of course, my poor sick child was sick enough to be uncomfortable and irritable, but still wanting to play and be entertained. How am I going to entertain a sick kid who is too sick to go anywhere but also still needs some distraction?

We were also one month into dropping TV cold turkey, and he had forgotten about it. There was less whining and fussing … life was calmer. Would I reintroduce TV? How do I care for my sick little one when I want to crawl in bed and sleep all day myself? Who is going to bring me my soup?!

I don’t have all the answers but here were some things that I found to be helpful during the icky sicky days.

Watch a little TV together

We did watch a little TV. But we watched it completely differently this time around. In the past, I used it to hold my son’s attention while I got other things done. This time, I cuddled with him on the sofa, and engaged him while we were both watching. I asked him questions about what he was seeing, or thinking, occasionally. This made watching TV feel more like an interactive bonding experience rather than a passive distraction.

Pedialyte is your friend

I gave my son plenty of Pedialyte popsicles. This was a fun way to ensure he was staying hydrated as well as soothing his sore throat. He also figured out how to manipulate the ice and push it up through the plastic, which took some practice, but was worth the positive reward of an icy cold treat. He is proudly and independently consuming his ice pops now.

If you’re not too sick, grab some outdoor time

I took my son outside for a bit. Even if it was just hanging out in our backyard, it felt good for us both to get out of the house, feel the warm sun on our face, and breathe in some fresh air (through our mouths at least).

Continue to have play time

As difficult as it was, I did still play with my son while we were sick. As much as my mind and body wanted to rest, it amazed me how he still wanted to play when he is sick. We played with puppets and stuffed animals. He told each of his animal friends how he was sick, so every single one (and we do have quite a few) took turns giving him a hug and kiss, telling him to feel better soon. This repetitive and draining game was worth the smile it brought to his face every time he got a hug from his animal friend. And occasionally those animals would turn around and give me a hug too.  

Take a bath … or two or three

We took many baths. Sometimes it would be in the morning or the middle of the day. Sometimes we would do multiple baths in a day. The bath serves purposes greater than just getting clean during times like these. The warm environment was calming and helpful to the both of us while providing just enough stimulation to keep the never resting mind of a two-year-old occupied.

Make sure you rest as much as possible

I slept whenever I could. I asked for help. I got some soup delivered. And here we are ready, healthy, and recharged for the third week of school. Now let’s just hope we don’t get rewarded with another cold at the end of it.

**Update: We successfully got through the third week of school, but we quickly learned we needed to drop the TV again. The behaviors of wanting to watch the TV and the whining and pleading for it resumed. The tantrums after we would shut the TV off also quickly returned. We are now back to no TV. Perhaps this will just serve as a helpful comfort only while sick, or perhaps next time, we will do some snuggling while reading a book instead.

How do you handle being sick at the same time as your child?

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Brittany is a mom, wife, and outgoing introvert who recently moved to the Columbia area in 2022! She has lived in many different cities from the East Coast to the Midwest and is happy to now call Columbia home. Building a sense of community is one of the reasons she and her family decided to come to Columbia and why she is very excited to be a part of the Columbia Mom team. Physical and mental health is also very important to her. As a physical therapist, she has witnessed the powerful connection of the mind and body and how both need to be given the proper TLC. In her spare time, she enjoys perfecting the fine art of sleep procrastination, listening to podcasts or books on tape, doing anything active, and adding unnecessary items to her Amazon cart. Photo by: Zach and Sarah Photography

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