I'm sure you've experienced this: You have all your normal plans and commitments in place and you wake up at 6am to discover your child has a fever and you to have to scramble to reorganize your day and figure out what to do so you can remain home with your sick child.
It's happened to all of us. Sickness is a part of life.
I want you to take a minute a reflect on how life changes when your child is sick. How do your daily rhythms and expectations change? Do you still go to those business meetings or that play date? How do you treat your child? Do you push them to rush through their day or give them space to rest and relax? What kinds of food do you prepare and feed your child? Is the mood of the home energetic or calm?
We got to practice this in real time this week as the flu made its way through our house. First, before I go any further, I want to say I am grateful to be privileged enough that when my children are sick I can stay home from work and be with them. This isn't the case for everyone and I certainly don't want to assume that all people are able to do this. That being said, here is what I see happen in my home when someone is sick, particularly a child.
Sick days bring....
- Noticing. Usually you are the first to notice when something is "off" with your child. They may not even show signs of illness yet but you can feel something is coming. You keep a closer eye on them as a result.
- Rest. When the illness shows up, we rest. We cancel our plans and activities outside the home. We usually stay in our pajamas or comfy clothes.
- Nourishing foods. We offer simple, nourishing foods when our children are sick. Things like chicken soup, warm teas, and broth.
- Closeness. We draw our children close, keep an eye on them, and make sure they are comforted and supported.
- Calm. We dial back our day, adding a sense of calm to the house so the sick person is able to rest.
- Time to heal. We watch our sick child closely and give the illness time to run its course, not expecting it to hurry along or follow our plans.
- A slow return. We don't jump back into everything 100% as soon as our child feels a little better. We slowly return to life and activities, giving the body time to completely heal.
Does this sound familiar? When our children show signs of physical fever, we simplify their life. We draw back from the outside world and settle into something more simple.
Now, let's turn the tables a bit. Sometimes our children show what we call "Soul Fever." This is when your child is stuck in one of those cycles of overwhelm. Perhaps every transition is tricky...clothes don't feel just right...nothing seems to help ease them....they are "off" and you know it. Younger children may meltdown more frequently or have trouble with things that normally come with ease. Older children may separate themselves from us and seem to have an "attitude" that doesn't go away.
Take a moment to imagine your chid in this state of soul fever. I'm sure bringing this image to mind isn't challenging. We have all been there.
Now take this idea of soul fever and put it next to physical fever.
When our children have a soul fever, they need all the same things from us as a physical fever. When our children have soul fever, they need us to simplify their lives until they come back into balance.
- Noticing. We notice something is "off" and things are missing some ease they once had. We keep an extra eye on them.
- Rest. We cancel or greatly reduce activities outside the home. We focus on things to do at home together.
- Nourishing foods. The soul fevered child needs simple, nourishing foods just as much as the physical fevered child.
- Closeness. We stay close to our child. Maybe we play board games or have a read aloud or watch a movie together. We take time to get close and together, letting our child know we are there for them. I know one family who goes hiking whenever soul fever shows up. I know another who take their son fishing when he is in soul fever. The idea is to do something that lets you be close and available to your child.
-Calm. We make sure our home and life feel calmer than usual. A soul fevered child needs less chaos and more calm.
- A time to heal. They need time to heal and return to normal life just like a physical fevered child does.
When our children are in states of soul fever, they need their lives simplified in that moment and also overall. When you notice soul fever, it's a bell ringing to alert you to simplify in one or more areas of your life. Does your child's room need decluttered? Does your rhythm or schedule need simplified? What about the adult world and adult conversations around your child?
We don't ignore physical fever. Let's get in the habit of noticing and treating soul fever as well. Your child's soul fever is a call to you to take stock of your life and see where you can simplify. In doing so, we can turn overwhelm and anxiety into calm and connection.