Parenting Sick Kids With Grace

Family / Friday, August 8th, 2014

Parenting with grace when a child is sick isn’t easy. Especially when you’re sick or sleep-deprived too! Tips to parent with grace when your child is sick.

When a child is sick, a normally well-behaved and easy-going child can become opinionated and cranky. Pretty soon you, and your family are walking on eggshells around an emotionally unpredictable tiny child who doesn’t feel well.

The Hardest Days to Parent

In our house, the hardest day to parent is often the beginning and end of the illness. While they need us a lot when sick, they usually feel so cruddy, they are willing to snuggle up, sleep, read books and watch TV.

But when kids still have a spark of energy and desire to play, but still sick, they can be easily frustrated and emotionally sensitive. It is obvious to everyone around them; they do NOT feel well. As a result, they are no longer equipped to cope with simple frustrations.

Whether home all day with the children, or spending time with them after work, we need a strategy to smooth out the rough edges and keep the peace. And show grace when we need to show more than usual.

Parenting with Grace When Your Child Is Sick | #parenting #motherhood #grace #momlife #sickkids

Parenting with Grace When Your Child Is Sick

Show Grace by Speaking Softly

Parenting sick kids is exhausting. Often we’re sick too, or are running on little sleep because our kids have needs in the night. It can be especially hard to show grace when feeling worn out.

One simple way to show grace is to intentionally lower your voice. Speak even more softly than normal. Quiet words are more likely to be received calmly. Furthermore, quiet words are less likely to be mistaken for yelling by a sick child who is feeling emotionally raw.

Run Sibling Interference

When one child doesn’t feel well, tension between siblings can be magnified. A sick child is more likely to perceive normal interactions as ‘unfair’ and easily offended by the occasional ‘butting of heads’ (literally or figuratively). For a parent, listening to sibling squabbles can get real old, real fast.

To keep your own sanity and lessen the possibility of responding sharply, running sibling interference can help everyone. Let siblings play together as long as it lasts. When the peace has ended, consider separating them into separate rooms or to play with different toys side by side.

While we can help a well child understand their sibling doesn’t feel well, they may still feel frustrated and left out. It may be helpful to stagger naps or rest time so you can spend some one-on-one time with each child.

Restful Activities

Fill the day with quiet, low-maintenance activities that require your child to sit. This way they can stay busy while still resting. A few ideas include:

  • bath time with plenty of toys – make it extra special by putting on swim suits, playing music, and adding sunglasses for a ‘pool party’
  • build a fort (or use their closet) and add pillows, blankets, flashlights and books
  • build a tape road on your carpet and supply the trucks
  • sensory play at the table
  • color, or make cards and crafts
  • setup a stuffed animal ‘zoo’ and bring the dolls to visit
  • play doctor or restaurant
  • finger paint a steamy mirror in the bathroom to keep them busy while loosening congestion
  • play a board game
  • practice writing numbers and letters, or snuggle up on the couch and use flashcards or a magnetic drawing board
  • utilize technology, including TV as needed


Moms often spend so much time caring for sick kids that they neglect to care for themselves. A filled up mama is better at showing grace than a depleted one. Instead of self-care, think stewardship. Stewardship is taking care of things placed in our care. We are stewards of the bodies and souls God has given us. We cannot parent effectively or serve God well if we neglect our own spiritual, emotional or spiritual needs. This isn’t about pampering ourselves when our kids are sick, it’s about doing what is necessary to fill up so we can pour out.

What do you need to do to care for your body and soul in a way that honors God? In what way are you feeling empty? Start with your soul. Spend some time reading the Bible, listening to hymns or worship music, or in prayer. If we want to show grace, we need to go to the source. God’s resources are unlimited and He has exactly what we need to serve our family well today.

How will you use the time your child watches TV, or is resting? Prioritize your soul, then move on to basic needs that help you function well. Time in your Bible or in prayer? Sleep? A snack? Maybe a shower? Neglecting your own needs will only leave your body prone to infection and your soul feeling worn out.

Respond With Grace Upon Grace

Grace for the Whine

We can’t miss the sick child’s whine because they’re laying it on pretty thick. Complaining can wear us down, but if we’re filled up, won’t do much more than hurt our ears and test our patience. When tempted to ‘react’ instead of showing grace, pause to pray, or take a break, and consider how terrible your normally sweet child feels.

Course Correct

It can be helpful to try to provide a distraction before a behavior needs to be addressed. When you see a sick child getting frustrated or upset, suggest a new activity or distract with music, reading a book or simply a hug. If you can break their train of thought, you can usually prevent a behavior that requires discipline. On a normal day, we probably let our kids figure out where their actions are leading, so they can learn cause-effect of behavior; but when one is sick, it’s alright to simply try to keep the peace.

Switch Methods

You know your child best. Avoid using discipline that’s sure to amplify their emotions. One of our children really doesn’t like to be alone, so time-outs are a very bad idea when sick. It may take some creativity, but we can still address the issue in a different way. Don’t be afraid to try something new if your standard discipline isn’t working.

Parenting with Grace when your child is sick | #parenting #sickkids #wearymom #encouragement #momguilt

Grace for Moms

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

If we’re honest, we aren’t always very fun to be around when we’re sick either. Or sometimes, when our kids are sick. Just like our kids, we get tired, cranky and emotionally raw. Yet, God still treats us with grace. And He has enough grace for us when we have trouble extending it to our children. We won’t do it perfectly; when words that don’t resemble grace escape, surrender your mom-guilt to Jesus and do the next right thing. Lean in to Him, His grace is sufficient for you, and shines through you when you feel weak.

We won't parent perfectly; when words that don't resemble grace escape, surrender your mom-guilt to Jesus and do the next right thing. #momguilt #motherhood #grace #parenting Click To Tweet

Additional Resources

The good news about minor illnesses is they go away. These days may feel long, but they are not permanent. Hang in there mama, you’re doing a great job. Check out these great resources for additional encouragement.

Good News for Bad Parenting Days, Janet Denison, Christian Parenting

Dear Mom Whose Child Is Constantly Sick {It’s Not Your Fault}, Erin Edom, The Humbled Homemaker

To the Sleep-Deprived Mama of a Hurting Baby

3 Replies to “Parenting Sick Kids With Grace”

  1. Great tips, Elaine! I always have trouble recognizing when my boys are coming down with something, then I always feel guilty when they are knocked out and I’ve been forcing them to play outside all day.

    1. Ugh, me too! Aiden always has a bad day when he is coming down with an ear infection. I finally bought an ostoscope so I can figure it out sooner (although I look in his ears ALL the time hoping there is a reason for crankiness 😉

  2. I love this so much! I’m the mom of two boys, one off whom has a chronic illness. We spend a lot of time in the hospital and recovering from illness. These points that you made are all so important, especially about accepting God’s Grace if you’ve messed up and investing time in self-care. You can’t pour from an empty cup. If your spiritual or physical needs aren’t met, it’s impossible to care for our sick kiddos in a way that pleases God. Excellent resource! Thanks for sharing!

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