Schools are cocktails of germs. Soon enough, your kids will come home with something that lands them in bed, sick. For parents, caring for a child's aches and pains often leads to household financial distress.
For working parents, finding a substitute caregiver when they're away isn't the only issue. Sick kids need medicine, doctor visits, and good tools for completing homework while laid up.
Here are five ways to get prepared before the common cold comes calling.
Your Child Is Sick. You Need to Work. What Now?
The ability to work from home is a lifesaver, for those who have that luxury. If your job requires you to be at the workplace, then it's essential to have a game plan in place before junior shows those first signs of the sniffles.
Network with parents you know to find the right babysitter. Interview candidates and then "hire" at least three with different schedules so you have the flexibility to find someone on short notice. Prospects can be located anywhere: school, work, the neighborhood, or local organizations like clubs, churches, and so on. Cast a wide net during the summer season and pick your list before the first day of school begins.
Keep a cabinet full of common remedies -- and not just cold medicines, pain relievers, and throat lozenges. Also stock up on sick-day comfort foods, such as soup for colds, breads and ginger ale for upset tummies, and frozen smoothie mixes for sore throats. Buy ahead using coupons or store specials to cut costs. Take advantage, and then catalog what you have (note expiration dates, too). Place the details about your "Sick Day Stash" in an easy-to-find folder so that when help arrives, there's no mystery about what's available, where to find it, and how much medicine to administer.
Germs don't wait, but every doctor's office has a waiting room. Don't let an urgent situation push you to see just any doctor who's available on short notice. Pick a pediatrician and then get to know the nurses as well as you can. That way, you'll be more likely to get to the right caregiver quickly. You'll also avoid paying two, three, or 10 times as much for visiting doctors outside of your insurance plan's approved network.
You make arrangements for your kids to meet obligations when taking time off for vacation during the school year. Why not use the same strategy when junior gets a bellyache? Talk with your child's teachers about what they allow in terms of working at home. Are assignments posted online? Can scanned work be sent via email? How about one-on-one instruction via Skype or instant messaging? Get creative in thinking about tools.
Once you have a plan, execute it. Get a family computer. Or, if your child is old enough to have a PC or iPad, make sure you have a good Internet connection and proper software for submitting work online. Don't rush the process; you can buy what you need a little at a time using discount sites or a good cash-back card if you're debt free. Either way, communicate your intent to your child's teachers. Having the right equipment at home shows you are serious about your children's education, while teaching kids that sick time isn't playtime.
No parent can ever be in two places at once -- especially a working parent with bills to pay. Yet even if we can't be there when our kids are sick, we can create environments for others to nurse our kids back to health and help them meet their schoolwork obligations -- and we needn't break the bank to do it.