What To Do When Your Kids Get Sick Over The Holidays

Share gifts, not illness!

For busy parents already juggling gift-giving, working with Santa, and all sorts of stressful holiday tasks, the last thing they need to hear is the sound of a telltale sniffle.

Sick kids are a handful any time of the year, but there’s no worse time than when families get together for the holidays. The pressure is on to have a good time and keep up with traditions, but how do you do that when the flu or a bad cold come to visit?

With flu season in full-swing, kids can be prone to illness around what's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. 
With flu season in full-swing, kids can be prone to illness around what's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. 

Before you toss out the turkey, all is not lost. There are ways to enjoy the holidays and family time without making kids feel worse than they already do.

So here’s what to keep in mind if your kids aren’t feeling well over the holidays:

Don’t travel if they’re really sick

Calgary lifestyle blogger Jody Robbins recommends missing out on the holiday bustle if your little one is really struggling. Sure, that means missing out on family fun. But she points out that making that decision is “adulting.” The younger they are, the more you should consider staying home. Going anywhere with a sick newborn, even if it’s a minor illness, is not a good idea.

“A parent’s main job is to keep their children safe and healthy. If kids are sick, they need rest more than they need to be entertained by holiday events,” she wrote on her blog.

If you do end up travelling, you’ll want to warn people ahead of time of your skid, as that may be a factor for their attendance — new parents might think twice, as the common respiratory virus RSV is just a small nuisance for older kids and adults, but poses serious danger to babies.

Most family members will understand if that’s the reason for your absence. Thanks to modern technology, you’ll still be part of festivities: arrange for video calls around big activities like unwrapping presents or giving thanks before meals.

Take turns keeping them company

If family is already staying over or a refund on flight tickets aren’t an option, you can still make sure your kid gets bedrest and doesn’t feel alone. If they’re not contagious, family members can take turns entertaining them, while parents swap between fulfilling holiday duties and watching over their kid.

It’s important not to expect kids to be as social as they usually are. Even if they plead to join in or make valiant efforts to rally, fatiguing themselves may extend their illness. Let them know that they’re not missing out on their favourite parts (like opening presents). That way, they can save their energy to join everyone when they really want to.

Look after their emotional health, too

Parents aren’t the only ones who can feel holiday stress: Kids can feel like it’s their fault plans have changed. Or their mood might be low if they feel left out of the fun their siblings and cousins are experiencing.

They might need extra love and comfort around this time, so pay attention to how they’re behaving and load up on TLC.

Parents aren’t the only ones who can cheer sick kids up. Finding a hand-written get-well-soon message from Santa might lift their spirits.

A personal message from Santa is the perfect pick-me-up for a kid who's missing out on Christmas fun.
A personal message from Santa is the perfect pick-me-up for a kid who's missing out on Christmas fun.

Be kind to yourself, too. How you exhibit stress can influence them, as kids can pick up on your negative feelings.

Make sick manners magical

Elf on the Shelf already watching out for naughty behavior? You can ask Santa’s little helper to help your kid practice their good manners while sick. The man in red would surely appreciate wiping noses on tissue instead of sleeves.

Adjust their diet

The richness of a Christmas feast might be too much for kids battling decreased appetites or won’t be able to taste much flavour-wise. Leftover recipes might come into play here: there’s nothing like a turkey noodle soup or oatmeal topped with cranberry sauce to soothe a nauseated stomach.

And thankfully, there are plenty of hot holiday beverages like apple cider they can sip on that’ll easily provide a higher intake of fluids.

Explore a winter wonderland

If they’re feeling well enough, some fresh air will do their immune system some good. Mild to moderate physical activity is OK and the Canadian Paediatric Society states that kids with colds can still play outside.

You might need to scale back on any extreme sports, but there are plenty of options that won’t tire them out.. Building a snowman is a low-energy task and you can take out the heavy-lifting by rolling the snowman’s bottom parts.

Enjoying winters magics with beloved ones, having fun and making a snowman
Enjoying winters magics with beloved ones, having fun and making a snowman

Try not to stay out for too long or in freezing weather conditions: winter fun should be fine in temperatures above -25 celsius, Sick Kids reports.

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