In Sickness and in Health

by Brette Sember

little boy with tissueOne thing you can count on when you are a parent is that your child will get sick. There's simply no avoiding it. But when you're sharing parenting time with your ex, childhood illnesses can play havoc with your schedules. Follow these tips for preserving your mental health when your child's physical health is on the wane.

Share parenting of a sick child

When your child is sick with a minor illness, your parenting instincts kick in and you may want to nurse him or her back to health yourself. It's natural to feel protective when your child is sick, but the other parent can provide adequate care as well. Your child can lie on the couch with a box of tissues at the other parent's house as well as at yours. Caring for a sick child is an important part of the parenting process, so give the other parent that opportunity. As long as your child is mobile and not seriously ill, stick to the visitation schedule as much as possible.

Allow access

If your child needs to be in bed, is vomiting, or is just too sick to get up and go anywhere, that doesn't mean the other parent should be shut out. Your child may not be able to go to the other parents' house, but that doesn't mean the other parent can't come by for a short visit. Allow them some time alone together, even if it just for the other parent to sit by the bed and hold the child's hand while he sleeps.

Pinch hit for each other when possible.

Kids seem to always get sick at the most inconvenient times. If you have an important meeting scheduled and your child is home sick from school, see if the other parent can take the day off to care for him. If you can rely on each other to fill in during these times, you'll always have back up child care and your child will be able to be cared for by a parent while sick.

Offer directions if you're worried

If you send your child off to the other parent's house with a cold or stomach ache and you're concerned that your ex doesn't really understand how to care for the child, offer some written instructions if it will make you feel better. Make sure that your ex has the phone number for your pediatrician. The bottom line though is that you have to let go. You have to let the other parent be a parent and learn how to care for a sick kid.

Keep charts for medications

When you have two people administering medications it makes sense to create a chart so that you can both mark down dosages and when medications were given. This can avoid confusion, overdoses, and missed medications. Do this for prescriptions, as well as over the counter medications.

Work together in the worst situations

If your child is seriously ill, this is a time to put aside your differences and focus on getting her healthy. If you're seeing specialists, having both parents along can be useful, if you're able to handle the situation together.

The good thing about most childhood illnesses is that they pass as quickly as they came on. Remember that you and your ex are both parents, in sickness and in health.

Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of:

Learn more about Brette on her web site.

Copyright © Brette McWhorter Sember. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.