I can clearly remember waking to the sound of my miserable baby, one balmy New Year’s Eve. I was in new territory. It was the middle of the night and I had no idea what to do. It was hard to stop myself from becoming a blubbering mess.
Thankfully my husband is cool in a crisis – he phoned a night doctor and we dealt with it without too much drama. It turned out to be our baby’s first fever, and it showed me just how anxious I become when my kids are sick. And I’m not alone. A new survey of parents across the globe has revealed that the biggest concern for parents is their child being sick. Of the Australian parents surveyed, while three quarters felt confident in treating their child when they have pain or fever, most of them still feel anxious about it.
So why is it a problem if we parents are on edge when our kids are sick? Child psychologist Dr Kimberly O’Brien says while it’s a normal reaction for parents, we need to learn to deal with our adverse feelings.
“Parental anxiety can impact on their child’s ability to get well. If parents are upset or if there’s a change in their voice tone this can then make their children anxious or upset. If parents are stressed or time pressured trying to manage other commitments when their child is unwell this can have a knock on effect. Parents need to manage their own anxiety and care for themselves so they can better care for their children,” Dr O’Brien explains.
Tips for staying calm and soothing your child
Here are Dr O’Brien’s top five tips to managing your own anxiety, and soothing your sick child.
1. Make a plan
Having a plan is one of the best ways to combat feelings of anxiety because it eliminates any indecision about how to best help a child in need. Plan the things you need to have on hand when challenges come up – for example, have a thermometer, distraction tools and appropriate medication in the cupboard, and get to know your local GP. Distraction and calming tools, if medication is required, can really help a baby (and parents) stay calm.
2. Know your tools
Distraction is often key, particularly for toddlers and older children. A favourite toy, game or TV show may relax children in need of medical intervention, calming them down and giving you time to figure out your next move. A helpful option is the new Buddy Bear website. It’s a video you can personalise so it speaks directly to your child and can therefore be more engaging for kids. Also, it’s short! So it’s perfect for giving parents a window to plan what to do next without excessive screen time – particularly if you’re using it in the middle of the night!
Try to see things from your child’s perspective to better understand their behaviour. Being sick can be frightening and they will look to you for reassurance. A simple cuddle can go a long way!
4. Do familiar things
If possible, keep your usual family routines in place to maintain a sense of normality at home. This is even more important when an illness extends over a long period of time, or when there are other children in the house to take care of as well.
5. Utilise your support network
Call on your support networks and share the load of caring for your sick child. It will increase the quality of your care! This may be your partner or extended family, to help take the pressure off you (because looking after a sick child day and night is exhausting). If it would ease your mind, plan ahead of time with a local friend or family member that you can call on for support even in the middle of the night if, for instance, you need to take your child for emergency medical care. This is particularly important if you have other children at home to care for too. Knowing that you won’t need to take them with you on any late night dashes will go a long way to making you feel calm.
If you’re keen to set up a personalised video for your child, check out Buddy Bear. Then it’s on hand the next time you need to soothe sickness or calm a crisis – and in turn, you’ll be able to keep your cool!
(This is a sponsored post for Children’s Panadol)