Sick child? Plan ahead to reduce sick-day stress

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Sick child? Plan ahead to reduce sick-day stress

Work doesn't disappear when you have a sick child. Plan ahead to minimize stress.

Your child wakes up coughing, feverish and too sick to go to school. For many parents, this predicament means time away from work, lost pay and increased stress — especially if you can't afford to miss a day on the job or your boss isn't very understanding when it comes to family matters.

Childhood illnesses are inevitable. To minimize the stress of sick days, consider your options ahead of time.

Stay home

Sometimes the best medicine is a parent's loving care.

"When your child is truly ill and needs the attention only you can provide, then it's important to stay home — even if that means missing an important presentation or meeting," says Robin Molella, M.D., a prevention specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

Remind yourself that it's OK to spend time with your sick child. Ask a colleague to cover for you if anything urgent arises. Delegate any essential tasks. Check phone messages and e-mails from home. Offer to trade shifts with a co-worker.

Trade with your partner

You might want to alternate sick days with your partner. If it's not practical to take turns staying home when your child is sick, you might try half days. Perhaps one of you can stay home with your child in the morning while the other works, and then trade duties in the afternoon. If you and your partner both have rigid hours, one of you might consider scaling back to part time or finding a position with more flexible hours.

Recruit others

When neither you nor your partner can take a day off — or your child isn't sick enough to need you at home — recruiting help might be an option. Before your child gets sick, ask close contacts if they could help out in a pinch.

Grandparents or other relatives who live nearby might be an ideal choice for backup child care. Perhaps a close friend or trusted neighbor would be willing to take care of your child on short notice. You might even be able to trade services with nearby parents — you'll watch their kids at some point if they can take care of yours.

Make a list of people you can turn to as temporary caregivers, including their phone numbers. Keep the list in a designated area so that it's ready when you need it.

Consider a child care center for sick children

Some children's hospitals and child care centers provide child care services specifically for sick children. Some employers help locate sick-child centers for employees and even subsidize the cost.

Again, it's best to plan ahead. Visit one or two centers before your child gets sick. Find out which illnesses they can handle and how staff members help children feel comfortable. Ask how staff members are trained and how often you'll be updated on your child's condition. Make sure you're comfortable with the staff and environment.

Don't succumb to feelings of guilt about not staying home with your sick child. Your job is to make sure your child is cared for — whether or not you're the one to provide the care.

Seek help from your employer

Present possible sick-day solutions to your employer ahead of time. Perhaps you can arrange to work from home when needed with a company laptop or home computer. Offer to work extra hours during evenings and weekends. Maybe flex time — when you work varied or staggered hours — would be an option.

Your union contract or employee benefits package might include policies on caring for sick children. In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to grant leave so that employees can care for sick family members. The mandated time off is unpaid, however, and you must meet certain conditions to be covered.

If your company lacks a policy on sick-child care, perhaps no one has asked for it. Once you bring the issue to light, work with your employer to create a solution.

Last Updated: 09/01/2006
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