The Working Parent’s Guide to Handling Child Sick Days

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By Jacob Maslow

  • Work with your circle to find support when you need it
  • Keep a stock of cough medicine for kids, pain relievers, and antacids on hand
  • If you have a partner, work together to devise a solution on who can care for the sick child
  • Communicate with your boss and team if you have to change your schedule

An unexpected sickness is likely to throw off the flow of your household, and if you’re a working parent, there’s a whole other layer to deal with. It makes for a stressful day right from the start, but there are some tips you can enlist to help you get through it, from planning to keep a stock of cough medicine for kids on hand to working with your community to pull together.

Have a Backup Plan in Place

Planning for the unexpected is a must for every parent because so many things can come up quickly. A child being sick is one of the most common. As a working parent, there are two plans you want to have to help you in this situation: backup child care and a stockpile of sick day necessities.

If your job doesn’t afford the option of taking time off or working from home, finding a place for your child when they are sick and unable to attend school or daycare can be challenging. To help in this time of need, it’s a good idea to work with your circle to find support when you need it. This could be a family member or a friend who either doesn’t work a full-time job or works untraditional business hours. Communicate with them to enlist their assistance as a backup caretaker for your child. It’s helpful to have a few people on hand if someone isn’t available. You never know when you might need help, so figuring out who you can count on in a pinch makes things easier when you are in the moment.

Nothing is worse than having a sick child without any reinforcements to help with their ailments. Not only can you provide immediate relief for your child, but having to figure out how to get the supplies you need with a sick child and little assistance is difficult. Your future self will thank you for keeping a stock of cough medicine for kids with sore throats, pain relievers for headaches, and antacids for upset stomachs. It’s also a good idea to keep your refrigerator stocked with foods and drinks beneficial during cold and flu season, such as citrus juices with vitamin C or dry cereals and bread.

Work Together with Your Partner

If you have a partner, work together to devise a solution on who can care for the sick child. One parent could cover the morning while another could take the afternoon shift if your child has an illness likely to last a few days, and trade days off with one another. One parent can run out to the store for supplies such as pain relievers or cough medicine for kids. You and your partner are a team, whether you are currently together or are co-parenting, so try to find a solution that makes things easier for everyone to manage.

Utilize Your Sick Days

It’s a good idea to understand your workplace policy on sick days, so you know whether this is an option for you if your child is sick. This is a luxury not all parents have, but you want to see if you do so you can take advantage. You usually aren’t required to share your reason for using a sick day, so try to keep the details to a minimum. If you have sick days, they are there for you to use as you see fit. Don’t feel guilty for using them up, especially if it means you can alleviate some stress over taking care of your sick child. 

Communicate with Your Team

Communication is essential when you have to change your schedule, so keep your boss and team in the loop on any changes. If you’re working from home, taking care of a sick child can be a bit easier, depending on how your day is mapped out. Let your team know what’s going on, so they won’t wonder where you are while administering cough medicine for kids with chest congestion. Don’t forget to ask for help if you need it as well. Delegation can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to juggle work and a sick child. 


Dealing with the unexpected is one of the many pleasures of being a parent. If you’re facing a sick child while you need to get to work, don’t fret. Have a plan in place to prepare you for the unexpected.


What if my workplace doesn’t offer sick days?

If your workplace doesn’t offer sick days, try to work with your boss or team to devise a solution that works for everyone. It’s essential to communicate your needs so that you can find a way to take care of your child and not fall behind at work.

What should I do if I can’t find anyone to watch my child?

If you can’t find anyone to watch your child, try reaching out to your community for help. There might be a daycare center or school in the area that offers sick days for children. You can also ask family or friends if they know anyone who could help in a pinch.

What are some tips for working from home with a sick child?

If you’re working from home with a sick child, try to keep them in a separate room from you so you can focus on work. Have plenty of distractions, such as books, toys, or videos, so your child can stay occupied while you work. And don’t forget to take breaks to also tend to your child’s needs.

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