The doctor's instructions were: plenty of fluids and whatever she touches has to be disinfected. That hit me in a strange way. As a mother, my job is to protect my little ones. Which meant that I had to do whatever I could to prevent Calla from catching it. But I'm also Poppy's mother, and she's not well, so I'm also supposed to do whatever I can to make her comfortable, not run away from her for fear of being infected as well.
When the kids are sick, I cuddle them, I kiss them, I read more to them, I am more patient with them. I don't treat them like they have the plague and wear a bio hazard suit around them. So the trick was to make Poppy feel loved while reminding her to touch as little as possible, while maintaining some kind of distance.
It's not easy when you have more than one kid at home. All day long, I had the line "You gotta keep them separated" ("Come out and play" by Offspring?) in my head. Not easy when the preschooler can't quite understand why she's got to keep to herself, and the baby wants to roam all around.
I'd say we managed reasonably well today. I hope you never have to use this list, but if you find yourself with a kid sent home from school and needs to be kept away from his siblings, I hope this will be useful:
1. Keep them separated!
Poppy was told to stay in her room as much as possible, but I was afraid it might make her feel ostracized, so I told her she was going to stay at Hotel Pop, and she would have special treatment. Like she had room service where she ate dinner in her room.
2. Draw up a time-table
If your child is of a school-going age, a time-table is something that he/she is probably familiar with. I did this up for Poppy, to give her an idea of the things that we'd be doing for the day. We sat down together at breakfast where I read her each of the activities, and together we decided when she would do what.
Poppy is quite independant in most things, and is usually happy to read the afternoon away. That said, she is still only 5, and there are instances when she will come to me and whine, "I'm bored." I usually send her off with a "Well, find something to do", and she will. But today I needed her to be occupying herself a lot. And this time-table helped tremendously.
A bit about it: There are certain fixed activities that she has to do at specific times. Like meals, and naps. She's not a big fan of naps but I insist when she is unwell, and besides, the medication does cause her drowsiness.
Each little piece of paper says the name of the activity on the cover, and inside, there are short and simple instructions that I know she can handle on her own (but we went through them one by one anyway, just in case).
For example: "Bowling!". Step 1: Find 6 toilet rolls. Step 2: Decorate them with washi tape. Step 3. Set them up on the floor. Step 4: Bowl!
A tip: This activity in particular was awesome because making the game kept her occupied for a very long time; in fact, she spent more time making it than playing with it. So think of activities that involve the child in more ways than one.
3. Prepare a fun box
The fun box goes hand in hand with the time-table - her face lit up when she saw it. It was like opening a big Christmas present, I think!
Since I didn't want her roving around the house looking for things to do, or look for items for my suggested activities, I wrote very specific instructions and, as much as possible, included all the materials in the box.
I used a big IKEA box that fits nicely in her bookcase. In it went the following:
- Books that I knew she loved but had not read in a while
- Paper for drawing
- Materials for crafts (like toilet rolls and empty boxes)
- Her chinese workbook
- A file
|This was based on "Funny Bones", one of her favourite books these days.|
The benefit of this box was also that it could be used to house various items that she touched in the house during the day, which I would then disinfect after the kids have gone to bed.
I dug out an old ring file and one of her activities was to decorate it. The idea was to file up all the loose sheets of paper that we would be using for activities, and for her to flip back during the day if she likes. I only asked her to write on the cover, so the drawing was a bonus :)
5. Keep fluid levels up
Water is the best but some kids may experience painful ulcers, which makes swallowing painful (thankfully Poppy seems to be having only a mild case, so no scary ulcers). Nonetheless, fluid levels still need to be kept up, so think yummy soups and juice boxes, iced lollies and even 'restricted' drinks like Ribena or rose water.
6. Check periodically
When your other kids are quiet and absorbed in something, zip in and check on your little sickie. Unless your child is able to entertain herself during all her waking hours (teach me how, please!), there will be times that she will have to come out and ask you for things. Check on her periodically, to see if all's well, and ask if she needs anything, or simply to chat.
I don't know about you but I am flat out exhausted if there are sick kids at home. I have to take care of the sick ones, and yet prevent myself, and the others from falling ill as well. So things like the dishes? They jolly well have to wait till I have the time.
8. Be with them too
My little one doesn't take big naps, and today for the first time in a long time, both girls were napping at the same time. So I couldn't do what a lot of other mums to, and that's to spend time with one child when the other is napping. But still, I needed to reassure Poppy that I was there for her by doing things with her as well. How then to do it without 1) leaving the baby alone - she's 17.5 months so can get to quite a bit of mischief and needs a constant eye on her 2) having to find a safe place where the baby cannot reach?
In the end, we played games (Poppy chose) on the dining table when Calla was in her high chair, playing with her own games.
9. Send surprise notes
One of her activities today was to make a mailbox. So it's stuck on her room door, and I dropped a little note in it today, from 3 of her favourite cartoon characters. She was really happy to receive it, but said "Mama, I know it's from you - Jake and his friends are not real, they're only cartoon people!". Sheesh. Oh well. She still liked it, and receiving letters is always fun.
10. Have a bottle of hand sanitizer in easy reach
Washing your hands with soap after touching your sick child or his things is recommended but sometimes you have to get to your other kids quickly so hand sanitizer comes in handy
Getting feedback is always good - At the end of the day, we talked about how the day went, and she told me what she liked most about it, and what she'd like more of. So tomorrow, there will be more written activities!
If you have experiences of being home with kids affected by HFMD, please share some tips! I still have 6 more days to go :|
On Friday, we got a call from Poppy's school. She was having a fever and we were requested to collect her from school. The fever went up and down all weekend, and she was very listless. Not her usual self at all. We vigilantly checked for spots on her hands, feet and in her mouth. Nothing.
On Sunday evening, I noticed a few little pimples around her mouth, but didn't make a connection because she does get these little bumps occasionally, particularly if she doesn't wipe her mouth after a meal. Dirt bumps, I call them. They looked nothing like the scary pictures we saw online. She also had a rash on her tummy and back. I also thought there was nothing to worry about because her sister would get the same rash, at the same areas, after a high fever. Roseola, it's called.
By Monday morning, there was no change - the bumps were still there but didn't get worse, and the rash had gone down. So with the best intentions, we sent her off to school. Her teacher called to inquire about the spots, and I told her what we thought. She suggested we bring Poppy to the clinic just for reassurance. We promised to at the earliest opportunity.
She came home looking like this:
So yeah, that's what the wretched spots look like.
In October I will be launching the "Life of Mum" linky party so please come back again to check out all these wonderful posts that mums from all over the world will share about their daily lives, doing the greatest jobs in the world. If you're a mum, and you blog too, hooray! Join the party! Details soon. Meanwhile, rock on, Mamas!