Sick days can be a challenge for busy parents juggling family and career responsibilities. With careful advance planning, you can help your child feel better and stay on top of things at work.

Advance Planning

1. Know when your child needs to stay home. School nurses advise keeping a child home if they have symptoms that would interfere with participating at school or could spread illness to others. Colds can be contagious for 2 days or more. Once a fever has been gone for 24 hours without medication, most kids can go back to class.

2. Discuss sick day arrangements with your spouse. You may want to agree in advance on which parent will stay home when your child gets sick. Deciding factors will likely include who has more flexibility and what you’ve got scheduled at the office.

3. Enlist additional help. Grandparents who live close by might enjoy an extra visit with their grandchildren. Neighbors with flexible schedules may also pitch in. After all, looking out for each other helps build a network where everyone can cope better with small emergencies.

4. Stay up to date on school policy. Most schools explain their policies in their handbooks and websites. Find out whether you need a doctor’s note to cover a prolonged illness and stay tuned for updates during flu season.

5. Understand your workplace culture. A family friendly workplace depends on the informal culture as well as the formal policies. Talk with your employer in advance to address their concerns and find solutions you both can live with.

6. Make a written agreement with your daycare center. Ensure your daycare agreement spells out their practices for sick children. Determine whether they charge full price for sick days and what criteria they use to assess whether a child is sick.

7. Research community resources. There are services especially designed to take care of sick children, so see what’s available in your community. Large daycare centers may have nurses on staff. Check on programs at your local hospital or at agencies for visiting nurses.

Staying Home With Your Child

1. Contact your child’s school. Let them know your child is staying home and warn them if it looks like it may be something contagious. Teachers and classmates can pass along missed assignments, and the school nurse can help answer any questions.

2. Arrange coverage at work. Take work home that you can do while your child is sleeping. Use phone and email to stay in touch with your office. Build a support system for exchanging favors with co-workers.

3. Enjoy quiet activities. Take advantage of the extra hours together by reading with your child. Limit television viewing and other screen time that can interfere with getting adequate sleep and rest.

4. Serve comfort foods and lots of liquids. Depending on the nature of your child’s illness, be prepared with foods that are easily digested like bananas and low fat yogurt. You can make the common cold feel less miserable with plenty of water, juice, and clear broths.

5. Follow your doctor’s instructions. Call your pediatrician if you have any questions, or if your child has a cough or cold that lasts more than a few days or is accompanied by a fever. If you use children’s over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, follow the directions closely.

6. Disinfect everything. Keep your family healthy by doing a thorough cleaning once your child recovers. Wash the sheets and wipe down surfaces including doorknobs, towels, keyboards, phones, and toys. Keep your hands clean and dispose of used tissues immediately.
Being prepared for sick days makes them less stressful for the whole family. With a bit of advance planning, you can spend some special time together and help your child get well soon.