It’s getting closer to school starting and you know what that means…sharing lots of germs with our friends. Which also means our kids are out of school because they’re sick, mom’s up late with them, and the family might miss out on fun activities. I know I shouldn’t be so pessimistic about that part of school starting, but it’s a real and genuine concern I have. There once was an entire year that not a week went by and there wasn’t someone who was sick. We had to do something about it. So we took charge and we decided that we needed to figure out how to keep our family healthy…for as long as possible.
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Becoming Resilient To My Anxiety
The winter months play with my emotions. I love the beauty of the snowfall and the fun it brings with it. I have fond memories of sledding and making snow forts as a child. However, when it comes to our health, I loathe this time of year! This is the time of year when we’re either stuck in the house because it’s just too cold outside or because everyone has come down with the latest germ circulating the neighborhood and there are sick kids in every corner of the house.
I’ve become very resilient to the emotions that flood my mind when my kids are sick. It’s taken years to get here! But, I wanted to talk about what used to happen in my mind when we had sick kids. I wonder if I’m the only one who felt this way?
It all started when our oldest son was about 4 months old. We had given him some formula that his little body did NOT like. As first-time parents, we had no idea that you couldn’t just give your children any kind of formula. I was exclusively breastfeeding and I didn’t have extra breast milk for him when I went back to work. Anyway, he was projectile vomiting while daddy was watching him. Daddy freaked out a bit and called me at work. He knew I would get worked up about it, so I left work and we took him to the hospital. The nurses and doctors basically told us we were overreacting and we were sent home. Looking back, of course, we were.
Anxiety Attack With Sick Kids
What that experience did was trigger an anxiety attack on me every time we had sick kids in the house. As soon as I would hear the words, “Mommy, I don’t feel very good.” I would literally get a pit in my stomach and I would be asking them 50 questions. I got chest pains, I couldn’t sleep, my hands got shaky and sweaty, my heart would pound, and I had to sleep next to them in case they needed me. (I actually still do this with the 2 and 4-year-old. They’re just too little and our room is too far away.)
It’s much better with my older kids since they can get themselves to the toilet when they have to throw up. And, now, I don’t feel like an uncompassionate warden when I tell them to tough out their cold. “Everyone gets sick!” We tell them. “You’ll be fine.” I’m there for them of course. I just don’t treat them like their little 2 and 4-year-old little brothers.
4 Thoughts That Were Causing Me Anxiety
I was explaining it once to my therapist and I asked him if he could help me understand why I get so worked up with sick kids. He couldn’t give me the answer, he only asked me to talk through what my thoughts are when it happened. Talking it out, I figured out that it’s because of four main things. 1, I can’t control what’s happening to them. 2, I’ve let them down as a mother. 3, I didn’t protect them from getting sick. And, 4, What if they die?! Oh. My. Goodness. What an awful thought! It’s not an unrealistic thought…it just shouldn’t be a thought.
I would spend hours entertaining the idea in my mind the worse case scenario. How bad they could get. What steps do I need to take when they get really bad? At what point do I take them to the hospital? What would I ever do if I lost them? I would be devastated! My husband would have to constantly tell me that the kids were going to be fine. I would separate myself from their tender state so I could go have a good cry because I was so worried about them. I would sob and tell my husband that I wish I didn’t worry about them so much! This is crazy!
Working Through My Fears
Thankfully, I’ve been able to work through my fears of my children getting sick and I don’t get as worked up as I used to. I had to work through each of my concerns.
1. I need to control what’s happening to them.
Oh my gosh! I’m controlling?? That’s taken some serious time to work that through. I can NOT control what happens to my children. I can’t control that they are not going to listen to your pleas to wash their hands, not touch their eyes, not pick their nose, cough into their elbow, etc. They’re kids for crying out loud. They’re not perfect!
2. I’ve let them down as a mother.
Now, that’s just not even true at all. Admittedly, our daughter has said some hurtful things, like, “You said as long as I wash my hands, not touch my eyes or nose, and cough into my elbow that I’ll never get sick!” Yeah, well I didn’t say that everyone else was going to do that as well. And, I didn’t say “never,” honey. Please, don’t put words in my mouth. I still don’t feel like a perfect mom, but I do know that I’m the best mom for my kids. There are definitely qualities that I’m working on to be a better person in general, but I have never let them down as a mother…yet.
3. I didn’t protect them from getting sick.
What?! I’m overprotective?? When I became a mother, I promised myself I wouldn’t be overprotective. Listen, self. I can’t protect them from everything. Especially the germs that some people either knowingly or heartlessly share with others.
4. What if they die??
I hate that this thought crosses my mind. It really isn’t completely unrealistic. Kids do die from illnesses. However, it’s a little more unrealistic to think that they will die when they have a simple cold. Thoughts of death are something that I have to just block out completely. I can’t entertain those thoughts. It gets very, very dark when I do that.
How We Keep Our Family Healthy
After so many times of the kids getting sick when we wanted to play as a family, I decided that we needed to find a way to keep the kids healthy. Last year, we spent the entire summer sick. It was awful! Our solution has been a number of things, and it certainly helps my anxiety. Maybe I’m feeding that need to have control…maybe. That’s beside the point. Because we have been able to enjoy each other more and spend more time outside of our house. If we do get sick, we get over it very quickly. I’m not saying we’re “boosting our kids’ immunity.” We’re simply keeping them healthy…yes there’s a difference.
1. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Packed with Vitamin C.
My kids don’t like many vegetables. But, I still make them have some for dinner. Whether I need to sneak them in the casserole or it’s an obvious vegetable side dish. They don’t have a problem with the fruit, that’s easy to incorporate. Kids need fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet in order to fight off any illnesses that come knocking on our door.
2. Reduce or Completely Eliminate Highly Processed Foods.
There’s no doubt in my mind that highly processed foods have an effect on my children’s immune system. It’s not entirely possible to completely eliminate the processed foods in our family’s diet, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Check out this article and research done on processed foods and the effect it has on the immune system.
3. Daily Exercise.
While I couldn’t find any evidence or research done on how exercise increases immune system response, I’m a firm believer in making sure you get some daily exercise to increase immunity. It’s just as simple as that. I make my kids do at least 20-30 minutes of activity a day.
4. Daily Multivitamin.
5. Daily Vitamin C.
6. Daily Probiotic.
There’s evidence linked to the benefits of probiotics and how it affects our immune system. If nothing else works, we’re certainly convinced that the probiotic has been one of the best solutions to many of our illnesses. We personally swear by these UP4 kids cubes! They’re just little chewable cubes. Not gummy, almost like white chocolate. The kids never complain about eating them and I really do believe they have helped their bodies fight off illness and keep them healthy.
I’ve learned over the years as a mom four things: I can’t control what happens to my children; I am the best mother for my children; I can’t protect my children from everything; my children are not going to die from a cold. The more I tell myself these things and practice training my brain to say them out loud, the more positive I can be with them. Sometimes getting sick is scary. Especially when your children, unfortunately, hear someone tell them that people around the world are dying from the flu. They need you to be positive and brave for them! Arm yourself with the right tools: fresh fruits and veggies; less processed food; exercise; multivitamins; vitamin c; probiotics. With these things, you and your children are on the right path to feeling better…physically and emotionally.