All nannies and au pairs hate it when their charges are feeling bad: cranky, complaining, crying, or whining. It’s annoying when children don’t listen, complain they are sick when they aren’t, or refuse to obey even the simplest routine requests. But, often when children are cranky or complain of having a tummy ache or feeling sick, they are actually overtired or stressed-out.

When a child complains they often want something but don’t know how to get it. They aren’t mature enough to know how to ask for something or express what is truly bothering them. Caregivers must determine what really ails the child.

HUNGRY: First caregivers must try to determine if the child is tired, hungry, or just wants adult attention. Provide children with healthy snacks and meals at regular times throughout the day. When children are home from school try to feed them on a similar schedule as their school days.

OVERTIRED: More often then not, when kids complain they are sick they are just overtired. Allow them time to nap and down time to read books. An early bedtime is essential for all kids. A pre-school child may need to sleep 10 to 12 hours each day, whereas a school aged child sleeps about 10 hours each day.

OVER-SCHEDULED: Although adults are always well-intentioned children’s schedules often parallel their parent’s busy lives. children need time to relax and play independently. Children become stressed-out with long and demanding school days, sports, and after school activities.

EXPECT TOO MUCH: Another source of stress for children is expecting too much from them. In an attempt to teach kids responsibility, caregivers often expect too much. There’s nothing wrong in expecting children to do their best. But when doing their best isn’t enough, children often suffer and complain of feeling ill.

INCONSISTENT ROUTINE: Consistency is especially important to children. Most children do not handle change well. Children need to know what to expect and when to expect it. A secure routine can help relieve stress.

SIDE-EFFECTS: Another source of children feeling sick are side effects from medications. For example, some antibiotics may cause diarrhea, decongestants may cause excitability, and antihistamines may cause drowsiness. Caregivers should read medication labels to weigh the risks and benefits before giving children medications.

Whenever children complain they are feeling sick it is important that nannies and au pairs take their complaints seriously. Since children are not mature enough to articulate what is really bothering them, adults must determine what really ails the children in their care. If the child doesn’t have a virus, the flu, or a cold, they may be suffering from stress or be overtired. Whatever the cause, it is the caregiver’s responsibility to help solve the problem to help the children under their care.

Do your charges suffer from being stressed-out or being overtired?


  1. Hyperactive kids are usually tired kids!! I remember my mother telling me that and I experience it now with the children I care for.One child I watch started full day kindergarten this year and his behavior has gone down hill because he is too tired. He wakes up with dark circles under his eyes and complains constantly after school. The child is exhuasted. After that we have to drag him to an activity after school four out of five days (and to his sister’s activities on his day off). Too much. But by the time his parents get home he’s bouncing off the walls. It’s not energy it’s complete and utter exhuastion. He just misbehaves like crazy because he wants his parents attention but is exhausted and knows no other way to get it but act crazy. Hyper because he’s overtired.Melinda, Portland Nanny

  2. I whole-heartedly agree that children are stressed out and overtired. I am just over 40 years old and when I was a kid Kindergarten wasn’t even mandatory. Now, children that don’t have pre-school under their belt are far far behind their peers when they start Kindergarten. As Melinda mentions above, children are tired. I am tired. If the parents and nannies are tired it’s easy to understand why kids are. I think a few hours of educational television a week is completely appropriate. Everyone needs down-time. Too many activities don’t allow kids to express themselves. I also strongly beleive kids need more recess and playground time during school. I don’t understand how just half an hour a day could possibly be enough for young students. The parents and teachers complain that they have “too much energy” when in fact they need to run and play a lot. I agree with the article that parents are well intentioned when they over schedule their children but it back fires. 99% of the time that my charges complain of a tummy ache they really are hungry or tired. Older children have stomach aches when there is a test to take at school or a bully bothering them.The Solution: I want to urge and beg parents to get their kids to bed earlier!!! Please allow caregivers to use common sense and allow a little bit of tv viewing or naps during the day. Playdates are educational and vital for child development. Taking away free time to just play isn’t good for anyone (nannies or children)Nanny Maryann, Bethesda. MD

  3. I agree completely! Stressed-out kids are everywhere. I just do not know how to discuss over scheduling with my employers. Very diffucult to mention such topics, but it is a huge issue with the children I care for too.We put too many demands on them too. NJ Nanny

  4. HiI think children are soft and there cannot take burden and if they are tired so they feel sick.

  5. I love this info. So true. We need to let kids to relax and just play. They are tired and always in a rush. Rushing here and there. As adults it’s our responsibility to pace the child’s day.

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