Sick Kids and Survival Mode


Have you ever searched “kids” and “sick” on Pinterest or the internet?

You’ll see hacks, checklists, and product recommendations. You’ll scroll immune-boosting recipes, homemade cleaning solutions, and puking hacks. You’ll read about how to feed them, soothe them, or dress them while sick.

Some of those are actually valuable resources!

But this isn’t that.

Acknowledge the Inevitable

I’m not here to give you five ways to clean your carpet after your kid puked on it (though I am certain those tips are out there). I’m not here to tell you our preferred brand of cough medicine or humidifier (most any will do just fine).

Some days, it really is about just making it through the day with sick kids. It’s also about recognizing sickness is inevitable. And getting through it with a sane mind depends on their ages, level of independence, the intensity of their sickness, and your capability to care for them.

Sometimes it really is just about surviving the day until bedtime – despite all the other factors involved.

And that’s perfectly okay.

Stock Up

At the start of back-to-school season, I make sure the essentials are stocked.

Besides the usual medical necessities (Tylenol, Motrin, cough drops/pops, Vicks, cough medicine, etc) Stock up on pantry items, too! Gatorade or Pedialyte, popsicles, crackers, soup, and other easy meals are helpful to have on hand.

Don’t forget the cleaning supplies! Having Lysol wipes, paper towels, or general household cleaners can help get rid of germs before and after bouts of sickness. Sometimes if I have the time and energy, I’ll also make sure my kids’ favorite pair of sweats or pajamas are clean.

We all like to be comfy when we’re not feeling well!

Tried and True

It’s important to have items that aren’t medicine, too.

A nose sucker, thermometer, humidifier, etc. The type and kind of these items may vary depending on age and preference. Some parents or caregivers prefer a certain brand or style. These items also change as your child grows. Things you need to care for a sick infant differ from what you need for an older child.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Hold Routines Loosely

You may have household routines set in place for a normal day. This is not a normal day! Even if you thrive in routines and a schedule, have more grace during a sick day. Sometimes you even have to throw routines out the window. Or maybe maintaining some sense of normalcy (laundry, cleaning tasks, real meals) helps.

Decide what you need on that day, and know it’s okay if it changes.


Mindset matters.

Like many seasons, this one is temporary! Remember to have grace for not just yourself and your kids, but your parenting. Give yourself permission to rest – even if you’re not sick. Caring for sick kids or people is exhausting!

Share the mental and physical load. Swap out responsibilities with a partner. If your partner isn’t there, accept help. Lean on your support system and community. Allow friends or family to take care of you, or drop off meals or groceries.

Consider your season

It’s easy to look online and find “10 activities to do on a sick day” for kids. (I’m sorry, who is doing ten things with sick toddlers?) Maybe one day, you’ll get there! But take your lifestyle and season into consideration.

Do you have a good support system established, or did you just move to a new place? Do you have the energy for those activities? Or is it better for your motherhood and sanity to stay in PJs and watch extra tv? Do you have older kids that can take care of themselves a little more or babies who completely depend on you?

Everyone is different. No one size fits all. Even, and especially, on sick days!

So much of your capacity to manage while sick depends on your season. Our seasons and our children are constantly changing. Not to mention your motherhood journey – if you’re pregnant, nursing, or deep in the thoroughs of postpartum depression. All days, but especially sick days, will look different in each stage of parenthood.

Overall, children really just need rest on a sick day.

So get cozy and allow for plenty of that. Turn on a movie. Make a couch nest of pillows and blankets. Cancel activities, play hookey, and say no. You are the gatekeeper. Don’t be afraid to go all Mama Bear on the outside world to protect their health.

And who knows, maybe one day you’ll feel up for doing Ten Activities With a Sick Kid.


*All advice is opinion-based. The material in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If your child is sick, please contact your pediatrician.