Here we find ourselves in yet another crisis for parents of small children. RSV has reached unprecedented levels. Hospitals are at capacity. PTO is completely gone, and the kids keep bringing home virus after virus. I hear you friends, we are in this together. Let’s talk about some tips to help you, as you cope with caring for sick kids, yet again this winter.
Affirmation # 1: “My fears are valid, but don’t need to control me”
Caring for sick kids can be overwhelming and trigger major anxiety in some parents. This anxiety is normal. Your job is to care for your child and it can feel really scary when you can’t control a virus… or even scarier if you can control the availability of doctors appointments or even space in the hospital if things get worse. Well, here is some bad news, we are biologically wired to care for these little people, so trying to fight the anxiety will be fruitless.
Surprisingly the best way to deal with the anxiety around sick babies is to validate it. Yep, when you notice your brain going to a place of worry, instead of ignoring it, you acknowledge it. “It is normal to feel this way.” “Of course I am anxious”. Once you complete this step, it will be significantly easier to give these worries limitations. Worry develops into anxiety when we allow it to impact the quality of our life.
Affirmation #2: “Illness can spread despite my best efforts”
You can sanitize, isolate, and do all within your power to prevent illness from spreading to other family members or school mates. Because you have something to physically do (clean), it actually gives us the illusion that we are in control. It may feel good in the moment, because of course we want to go everything we can to help when we are caring for sick kids, but this cleaning practice can backfire. We then hold ourselves responsible if others get sick. Setting unrealistic expectations will only set us up for failure. We can try our best, but we still are not fully in control of the spread of illness.
Affirmation #3: “Taking care of sick kids is a community effort”
This one is for parents who are stressed about calling off of work, yet again. For the mom who has mom guilt because duties have fallen through the cracks. We carry a burden that our sick children should not impact anyone else. We try to minimize the inconvenience. For lack of better words, this is bullish*t. This is one again an unrealistic expectation that is additonally fueled by a society that doesn’t understand the value of supporting families within the community.
Just because the system is broken, it does not mean that you need to suffer. Yes, your job is impacted. Your coworkers are impacted, Your clients are impacted, but its okay. It is not your job to minimize this impact on them. You just need to focus on those babies that need you.
Affirmation #4: “Taking Care of Myself is More Important Now than Ever”
It is really common to minimize your personal self care when you are home caring for sick kids,We do this because our kids demand more of our time and attention, and we also understand that it is temporary. Prioritizing things like your own sleep and your own mental health is crucial in helping you stay healthy.
Taking Care of sick kiddos can feel so overwhelming. As a perinatal mental health therapist, I see the strain this cold, flu, RSV season is taking on my clients. Remember we are all in this together, and take care of you first and foremost. How are you holding up in your house this week? What is the hardest part of dealing with sick kids for you?
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