Van got his first fever this week. We made it 16 1/2 months, but knew it was bound to happen eventually! The first day it stayed 99-100.5 so I wasn’t worried, but then it spiked to 104.9 overnight 😳 I’m still proud of myself for not panicking and dragging the whole fam to urgent care at 3:30 in the morning (first-time mom alert)! I did stay up with him and took him to the doctor Monday morning. After ruling out an ear infection, strep, and the flu the doctor basically told us to let it run its course.
So here I am- home with a cranky, sick toddler. And for the record, Van is not one of those kids that sleeps all day when he’s sick. Collin and I have been taking turns staying up with him because he’ll only sleep if he’s being held. And you can just forget naps!
Communication is extra hard for sick little boys and girls. It takes lots of thought and effort to engage with others and when babies and toddlers are sick they probably aren’t going to want to do it. So as parents, our job is to be extra supportive.
Which brings me to my 5 Communication Tips for Sick Babies and Toddlers:
1. Decrease demands. When your children are sick, you’ll likely notice them not doing something that you know they’re typically able to do. That’s okay. Ordinarily I am big on wait times. Well when your children are sick, cut them some slack. Trying to get them to say “up” before you pick them up will likely just frustrate your little ones. As will asking lots of questions. Instead use tip number 2…
2. Narrate Everything. Self talk and parallel talk (discussed here) will be your best friends when your child is sick. This fever has turned Van into a stage 5 clinger, so in order to maintain a language-rich environment, I am constantly using self talk (aka narrating everything I do in short, simple 1-3 word phrases and sentences).
3. Stop asking yes/no questions. The answer will be “no” every time. Like us, our kids don’t really feel like doing anything when they’re sick. So instead of asking “do you want some water?” It helps to phrase it “let’s get some water”, “mommy will get your water”, or “here’s water” etc. Your child might still reject whatever it is, but at least you’re not setting yourself up for the infamous “no”!
4. Read, read, read! Again Van won’t sleep when he’s sick, so reading is the next best thing for us. It’s a way for him to have the comfort of being close to Mommy or Daddy, while sitting still, being exposed to an array of vocabulary, and keeping demands low. For recommendations and tips about how to read with your baby or toddler, see my previous post here.
5. Limit screen time as much as possible. Y’all, I know how tempting it is to post your child in front of the tv or an iPad so you can throw in a load of laundry, vacuum, or simply just pee without your sick little one screaming because you set him or her down for 2 seconds. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association just published a wonderful, informative blog post about the impact of screen time on language and social development (click here to read) based on the latest research. Did you know that the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that children under 18 months not have ANY screen time and that children under 5 years old only be allowed 1 hour daily? In this day and age, these recommendations may sound extreme (and a little impossible). But thinking about it, young children are just learning to communicate and socialize, and that is something that takes tons of practice! If a child is spending hours on a phone, TV, iPad, or other device, he or she simply isn’t getting that practice. As wonderful as some of the language learning apps out there are for teaching receptive vocabulary, nothing is going to teach your young child to read and use social cues, facial expressions, body language, tone of voice etc. like real social interactions. I get that a single day most likely won’t make a huge difference, but kids love screens so this is a can of worms that I wouldn’t recommend opening!
Just to be clear, these tips are intended for children with an acute illness, rather than anything chronic or recurring. Ongoing concerns about your child’s communication skills should always be addressed with your child’s physician to determine whether a speech-language evaluation is necessary.
I hope you found these tips helpful and that you’ll be able to try some out on your little one’s next sick day! Let me know by liking this page or leaving a comment!