Most of the time, most early childhood illnesses present nothing more than a few days of irritability, discomfort, grizzling and lost sleep - and for the child it is much the same! Whilst some parents and doctors believe that "children just get these things as part of growing up", I believe that very many of them are preventable and, when they do strike, can be far better managed than is often the case.
Like the medical sciences, yoga teaches that there are endogenous (self induced) and exogenous (environmentally induced) causes for our illnesses. The yogic view, and that of more enlightened thinkers, is that either kind of illness comes about purely and simply because you have left yourself weak and vulnerable, either to conditions arising from inside yourself or to the invasion of stressors from outside yourself. It is commonsense that there are germs and diseases floating around in the environment all the time - some more prevalent than others, and some more potent than others - but only some people, and only some of the time, end up "going down with something". Whenever there is sickness, we need to ask the question -"Why this, why now, and why me?" The short answer is - "The system was too weak to deal with it". The time it takes a person to go down with something and the time it takes them to recover, are directly related to their immune system responses as well as to the energy levels in their system at that time. And herein lies the basic answer to the prevention of, and recovery from, illness - a strong immune system and high levels of well balanced energy.
Whilst children as a rule have high levels of energy, they are not always well balanced. As well, they have not yet developed full body resistance to the kinds of invasions an adult can repel. Also, since they are such sensitive little souls, minor stresses tend to hit them harder than they may hit a grown up. For these reasons, whilst they are growing up, we must try to protect them from unnecessary exposure to diseases, help them to balance their energy, to build up their immunity, and teach them how to effectively handle the stresses of life.
Even the most assiduous person does not achieve perfect health so, as
well as striving for good health, accepting illness as being a part of life - and a necessary part at that - is often a very hard lesson. We have become so attached to good health and being free to go about our lives, that any deviation from that makes us cranky simply because we can't. Sickness (in adults and children) is seen as such a terrible imposition on their normal lives that many people just try to medicate its symptoms out of existence rather than to see them as a sign of imbalance and the body requiring time to rest and heal itself. Allowing children to be sick is an important part of their development that a lot of parents don't seem to have time for anymore. One extreme example of this mindset is what is called in mother's circles "The Demazin Dump" - a common ruse of feeding young babies a high-powered cough and cold elixir which effectively suppresses the symptoms and dopes the child just long enough for the mother to get them into childcare for the day and herself off to work.
Accepting illness in yourself is the first step to accepting it in your children. How can we show them that it is OK to be housebound or to lie in bed for a few days if we can't stand to take such a break ourselves and be happy about it? This same principle should be applied to children even more so, as their growing bodies are far less equipped to just "soldier on" as we adults might choose to do. Managing your children's illnesses comes down to how you think about health and illness in yourself; how you understand the body's own healing mechanisms and adhere to those facilities; and how you understand and use medicines in your own life. For first time parents, having a baby often makes you reassess many of these things anew. New parenthood is really a very good time to make a fresh start and clean up your own act in these areas, not just for yourself, but also for the sake of your children.
Another matter surrounding illness is to confuse symptoms of discomfort with those of a real illness, and allow a child to "milk" a situation beyond the necessary. This can happen when the parents overly reinforce the child's perceptions of his own discomforts. Teething is a classic example. Sure, a child may be irritable and out of sorts - similar to when they have a cold or a fever - but teething is not an illness and is, besides, an inevitable part of childhood. Truths such as this need to be addressed for what they are, with rest, comfort and soothing activities in conjunction with explanations about