* Your daughter looks pale and is complaining of a sore throat and can’t sleep
* or she is flushed, her body aches, and the thought of homework overwhelms her
* or your daughter feels crampy, weepy and just wants to stay home.
Do you see this as an opportunity for her to feel your love
and a way for her to learn how to take care of herself well -
or do you worry, and wish life were not being interrupted?
Make the most of the opportunity that ill health brings,
to have healing time with your daughter.
If at all possible, make time for healing and convalescence. I know that this is not easy for working parents, or during academically intense times at school, but we communicate a great deal to our children about the importance of their well-being in how we approach their illness. Children feel vulnerable when they are not well, and they need us to be there, soothing and caring. If we can stop when they need us to stop, then they learn that their good health is important. They feel that they are important.
Many parents worry about their children’s self-esteem – caring for kids when they are ill is a powerful way of boosting their sense of having great worth. Our words speak volumes, our actions shout it out loud and clear.
Old-fashioned nursing is so easily replaced by pain killers, symptom suppressants, and antibiotics, in our hurry-up and be-strong culture. I want my children to know how to help their own body to heal. Simple and obvious, but so often ignored:- restoring good health is helped along by plenty of sleep, water, fresh food, fresh air, loving care, and plenty of rest. The body is a self-healing device, but to enable it to heal it helps to reduce all other pressures, physical and emotional. Show your child how to do this, by taking good care of her physically, and by removing as many of her worries as you can. Phone the school, and cancel other commitments; inform yourself of the best remedies for what ails her, to reassure yourself and your daughter that you are capable of nursing her back to full health; and give her time.
Surrender yourself to the needs of your patient. Be with her. Sickness can be frightening and lonely, so having company is reassuring. Fetch flannels, soothing drinks, tempting morsels, favourite foods. Mop her brow and massage her feet. Then stay with her as she recovers: read to her, play board games, sit at the end of her bed and chat. Do not substitute yourself with the television. Slide the screens to one side and show her how to take care.
Allow her to regress. Illness can be a great time to close the distance that sometimes forms in the teenage years. Being cared for when ill, can heal past hurts. Love is healing.
What are your childhood memories of being sick?
Both my parents worked and there were four of us kids, so illness was discouraged. My mother prided herself in never having a single day off sick from work, and we had to pass the thermometer test before we were allowed to stay home. Once old enough to be left, we were; with someone popping home at lunchtime to check we weren’t dying. I don’t have fond memories of being sick.
So nursing my children when they are ill does not come easily to me. I have to learn to welcome it as a precious time. I knew I had succeeded when after weeks in a darkened room nursing all three children through measles, my little girl said, “This is like Christmas!” with family time, board games, stories and favourite foods.
I do remember that back when I was a child, the doctor paid home visits to us children though. I understand that doctors are over-stretched and one home visit takes the place of half a dozen surgery appointments, but I can never see the sense in disturbing an ailing child, taking her from her sick bed, outside, and to a place where lots of other sick people go with all their germs. I avoid it if I can.
It takes courage to nurse our sick children. It is tempting to hand it over to the medical profession, and give the drugs that make the symptoms pass fast, and get back on with our lives. Recognizing that many symptoms are evidence of the body’s healing mechanisms working – and snuffles, coughs, aches, and fevers are best not suppressed – means giving time for full recuperation. When we give our children our time, we communicate our love.
Make sickness a healing time to treasure.