4 Tips for Co-Parenting When Your Child is Sick

Father checks daughter's temperature as she lays on the couch

One thing all parents can expect is for their child to get sick now and then. Children catch colds from other children all the time at school, and they often bring home their illness to infect their siblings or even their parents. This is close to unavoidable during certain times of the year, so it's a reality many parents know all too well. 

For co-parents, a child getting sick can make a mess of the family schedule and lead to frustration on both sides. Before your child catches their next cold, be ready with these helpful tips for co-parenting a sick child. 

Prepare for illness before it arrives

Before your child comes home with another cold, know the plan for managing your child's medical care. Be sure you both have access to critical, up-to-date medical information such as insurance details, lists of allergies and medications, contact details for your child's doctor, and other facts crucial to your child's health. 

Additionally, know what to do if there is a medical emergency. Know where the closest hospitals are to each of your homes and plan to keep one another informed of any incidents as they arise. 

Communicate about your parenting schedule

Depending on how sick your child is, they may need to stay home from school. They may also not have the energy to be moved from one parent's house to the other. 

In situations like these, you and your co-parent must decide how to handle your parenting schedule or visitation. You may already have plans for this laid out in your parenting agreement, and if so, refer to those. If your child is well enough to travel between homes or to visitation, try to keep up with the regular schedule.

If your child truly isn't well, work together to decide what to do. It may be best for your child to stay where they are so that they can focus on rest and getting better. Stress can only contribute to their illness and prolong it. Be on the same page about any decisions you make that deviate from your regular parenting schedule, and be sure to document these decisions well.

If your child must stay home from school, it's often up to the parent with whom the child is currently staying to make plans for this. In the case where you find you can't stay home with your child, see if you can ask your co-parent to step in. Your child arrangements agreement might have details as to whom you should ask first in situations such as these.

Share details with your co-parent

Once you do pass your child into your co-parent's care, be clear about care instructions. Write a list of medications, including when to take each and any special instructions about how to take them. Share the latest details about how your child has been doing in your care before you leave them in someone else's care. On OurFamilyWizard, details about medications and other medical incidents can be shared easily between co-parents using the Info Bank.

Once you've shared what you need to, let your co-parent take over. Trust that they can care for your child and that they'll have your child's best interests in mind as they nurse them back to health. For some, letting go of that control can be very difficult, but it's vital for you both to take responsibility in moments like these. 

Show a united front

When your child is sick, try to keep the air around them positive. Speak kindly of your co-parent when around your child, and consider giving your co-parent a bit more access to your child during this time. They might check in more often by phone or text. You may even consider inviting them over to spend a little time with your child if they're really feeling unwell. 

Showing a united front in shared parenting all the time can have a positive impact on your child, but it's even more real when they're sick. If your child becomes very ill, don't hesitate to put aside your differences and stay focused on bringing your child back to health. Be there for your child as a team, not as co-parents in conflict.

As tough as it can be to handle a sick child, you must manage it well when it happens. Keep your plans for treating illnesses in mind before your child gets sick, and work together to help your child feel better as soon as possible.