The stomach flu came to my house last week. As I took care of my teens through this brutal, relentless virus, I couldn’t help but think of all the times we had battled similar illnesses when they were younger.
I always thought it would be easier when they were older and able to manage better for themselves. Although nursing little ones through sickness is all-consuming and dreadfully exhausting, I learned that caring for sick teens can be pretty darn tiring too.
The good news is that teens know that being sick is a part of life everyone must endure. But they still need our help in many similar ways. As the cold and flu season rages on, here are some things you might want to keep in mind if this awful sickness strikes at your house:
1. Your teen will need you to stay with them
When they’re healthy, they like their privacy and independence. When they’re sick, your teen will beg for you to be nearby as they purge uncontrollably. They will want you to hold their hair back from their face, help sturdy the bowl when they are too weak, and wipe their face with a damp cloth in between heaves. They need your sympathetic voice and comforting touch. They want your constant presence because they are a mess, and the very last thing they want is to be alone.
2. Your teen will need you to clean up after them
When our kids are this sick, we can’t expect them to clean up after themselves. Bigger kids cause bigger messes and it’s up to us to do the dirty work. We’ll clean the bathroom while gagging and fill the washing machine with soiled clothes, bedding, and towels, over and over again until the illness passes.
3. Your teen will need your encouragement
My teens were most worried about two things: whether they were going to die from their illness and if they were going to miss anything really important while they were sick. It was on me to offer the constant assurance that they were not going to die despite how they felt. They were both frustrated and disappointed about missing out on some events. But they learned the importance of acceptance and flexibility when life throws you off course.
4. Your teen will be needy during their recovery
Once the puking stops, they’re still too sick to do much else except lie around groggy and grumbling about lingering pains and being bored. If you’re wise, your teen has been secluded in their bedroom in a desperate attempt to keep the sickness from spreading to the rest of the family. Your usually independent teen will yell for you, text you, and call you, about every 15 minutes to see what you’re doing, when you’re coming up, or ask you for something.
5. You will still worry
Although it’s easier when our kids can communicate about their sickness, it doesn’t lessen the worry we feel. We worry about missed sports events, lost practice time before their concerts, or piling school work that needs to be made up. We worry about them trying to catch up, keep up, and get back into the game. And, once they’re on the road to recovery, we worry about catching their darn sickness, too.