They Are Home Sick–But Are They Resting?

01 Dec They Are Home Sick–But Are They Resting?

February is Children’s Dental Health month. In honor of children, I want to share some parenting insight and tricks to keep our kids healthy. I see lots of kids as a dentist, and I have two of my own. As parents, I know we tend to think our kids can manage on their own after awhile. As a matter of fact, I was quite relieved when my kids could bathe themselves, brush and floss their own teeth, and even make themselves food. Haaaaahh. That is total relief in a busy household.

However, a stark reminder hit me last week when my son was home sick from school. I was in my office trying to get some writing completed, and I decided to check on him to see how he was doing. The first time I checked on him he was playing Clash of Clans on the Ipad. I discouraged this and requested an alternative, less intense option. The second time I checked on him, he was watching Spider-Man, the movie. Again, I suggested something less violent and action-oriented. His fever persisted. He had not drunk any of his beverages. He had not slept at all despite a restless night before. This time, my learning curve improved. I requested no more screen time until he was better. I took the Ipad with me. I sat with him to watch him drink some hot tea, and I recommended a nice nap to help him rest.

It took about ten minutes, and he was out cold. He napped and rested for over an hour and then got up and watched some very ‘wholesome’ television; I think the Andy Griffin show was on ME T.V. Honestly, though, I found no screen to be the best way to ensure rest occurs.

My point is this: we are busy Moms and Dads. When our kids are sick, it’s tempting to keep doing the ten things we were going to accomplish in the day when they were supposed to be in school. Kids need rest, fluids, and love when they are sick. A recent story on NPR reminded me of how important the love part is. Despite having ebola, a grandparent stayed with his granddaughter in a quarantined tent to help nurture her back to health. The full story is linked here. A little nurturing goes a long way, and I believe this loving Grandparent saved a little girl’s life.

When my son was sick, I would have loved to have gotten another blog post written or article submitted, but I intentionally took the time to monitor my son’s health. Kids have many distracting, highly engaging options for ‘the couch’ these days. And parents have many distracting, highly-demanding work lists to complete. It’s still our jobs as parents to ensure rest is being completed when our kids are sick. In our household, that now means low-level screen time, if any. As soon as I took the technology options away, my son fell asleep. His body wanted to sleep, but his head wanted to keep playing games. We have to teach them how to rest and take care of themselves. No one else is doing that. They will learn that skill from us. But, only if we take the time to do it, encourage it, and enforce it when necessary–even if we do not always do it for ourselves (and, yes, good role modeling is helpful, too).

I would encourage all parents to monitor a child’s sick day–more than before. Just because they are quiet, does not mean they are resting. I guess that rule still remains constant. The options today are more action-oriented, however, and I believe the distractions are more intense for the mind. They discourage slowing down and resting.

The same parent monitoring is similar for oral health and wellness. Consider who is going to teach your kids to brush and floss well. I can tell you the hygienist and dentist will teach them, but it’s the parenting at home that ensures it. Kids get better and better the more they do it. Then, when they go for dental check-ups, they will get more coaching and advice. (Make sure to ask for a summary report at the end of your child’s appointment). It’s a team effort to teach kids how to take care of themselves. Parents and professionals working together is the recipe for a successful oral health journey–and overall health journey for that matter.

But, watch out….just last night my son did not floss his teeth (and he has definitely been shown, instructed, and reminded several times). How did I know this? I asked. I parented. Even a dentist’s kid needs the love, support and encouragement to take care of himself. He does not miss very often, but an occasional spot check never hurts, and I am glad I did.

If you cannot remember the last time your child visited the dentist, it’s probably time to go. For Children’s Dental Health Month, I hope you take the time to teach your child to value his or her teeth. In doing so, you will be teaching him or her to take care of himself or herself. Self-care is that important. Let’s teach them while they are young.

As Benjamin Franklin said,  “It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.”  Not caring for ourselves is a bad habit. Let’s avoid that one and teach our kids how to take care of themselves–by modeling this behavior and monitoring their behaviors. It’s a lifelong skill; they will thank us for it later.

Dr. Knowles is a health advocate for the dental profession. She owns her own consulting business, IntentionalDental Consulting, and provides educational advice to dentists in their practices and to others wanting a healthy body, mind, and smile. Contact her at, or visit her website at Dr. Knowles is available for speaking, writing, and professional consulting. 

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