The week's best parenting advice: March 24, 2020
How COVID-19 affects children, connecting with relatives during quarantine, and more
How COVID-19 affects children
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, one ray of hope for parents has been the knowledge that the virus seems to rarely be deadly in children. But as The New York Times reports, one recent study found that some kids "become seriously ill." How worried should parents be? Not very, says pediatrician Mahmoud Loghman-Adham, M.D. "Children under 19 years represented only about 2.1 percent of cases reported from China," he told The Week. While the study did find the disease can be severe in a small number of babies under the age of 1 year, it remains true that the majority of children who become infected will not be seriously ill. Symptoms in kids are similar to those in adults: fever, cough, shortness of breath, and occasionally vomiting or diarrhea. And it's important to remember that children can still spread the disease, so handwashing and social distancing is key.
Missing grandma and grandpa
Older adults are most at risk of serious complications from COVID-19. As a result, many children are finding themselves separated from their grandparents. This can be confusing for kids, and painful for their doting relatives. Save the Children has some helpful tips for bridging the gap: Explain to children how the virus can affect the elderly, validate their feelings and reassure them the separation is only temporary, and make plans to speak regularly. According to USA Today, one family in Virginia came up with an interesting workaround: Their grandmother "brought over some groceries, left them on the porch, and talked to her grandchildren through the glass storm door." Others are relying on virtual solutions, like video calls. Eddie Pasa, a parent of two, told The Washington Post he was calling his parents regularly. "Their voices lift our spirits and — for a little while, at least — make everything all right with the world."
Can I hire a babysitter?
Across the country, daycares and schools are closing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving millions of childcare-reliant parents in the lurch. Is it safe to hire a babysitter or nanny? Yes, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer at The New York Times, provided you take necessary precautions. "Caregivers should be encouraged to wash their hands and remove shoes upon entry to the home," says Allison Aiello, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health. If they go on outings with your child, advise them to avoid crowded spaces. And if your sitter or nanny gets sick, do your best to offer paid time off, Wenner Moyer says. "Caregivers are like extended family — we need to do what we can to keep everyone, including them, healthy and safe."
Pregnant during a pandemic
Has there ever been a more stressful time to be pregnant? The good news is that so far, there's no evidence that pregnant women can transmit COVID-19 to their babies in utero. "No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive," says the CDC. Should you avoid the doctor's office during the outbreak? No, says economist Emily Oster in the ParentData newsletter. "Wash your hands, maybe do not take the bus to the office, but don't avoid the doctor." Some pregnant people are considering changing their birth plans from hospital delivery to home birth because of the virus. Should you do the same? "I cannot emphasize enough: No," says Oster. The small risks that come with home birth are "larger than any COVID-19 risk," she claims. Plus, you may need an emergency hospital transfer anyway. Best to stick to "an orderly hospital admission through the delivery ward," if that was your plan all along.
Pencil in self care
For parents who suddenly find themselves homeschooling kids because of coronavirus, the most common piece of advice is to implement a schedule. But it's important to remember that this is not the time for overachieving. "It's not about winning; it's about striving for the bronze," says Kimberly Harrington at The Cut. Keep your schedule simple. Base it on "when your kid typically has good focus or energy versus when they're typically exhausted or riled up. Gang up hard-to-focus-on subjects during times when they're at their best," Harrington advises. Remember to take good care of yourself by factoring your own needs into your daily routine. "To update that sage newborn advice about sleeping — eat when they eat, drink when they drink, open the windows and inhale fresh air when they do," she says. "You might think you can't afford the time to do those three things, but I'm here to tell you, you can't afford not to."