The week's best parenting advice: July 14, 2020
Caring for kids with COVID, how to reopen schools, and more
How to care for a child who has COVID-19
While the science seems to suggest that most kids who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms, they can still spread the virus to others. How can families care for their sick kids without contracting the virus themselves? Older kids — teens and tweens — with symptoms should stay in a part of the house that's away from the rest of the family, and only one parent should be their designated caretaker, Kristin Moffitt, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Boston Children's Hospital, tells The Washington Post. Keep your distance, wear a mask, and disinfect often. With younger kids, parents will need to get creative. If co-sleeping is unavoidable, Moffitt suggests sleeping head-to-toe and opening the bedroom windows, because "good ventilation is key." And try to find ways to interact while maintaining distance, perhaps by "reading a book or telling stories from across the room, playing a game that does not require proximity, such as Pictionary or I Spy, or watching a movie."
Can schools open safely?
As the global pandemic drags on, so does the debate over whether to open schools this fall. A group of experts — former CDC Director Thomas Friedan, former Education Secretary Arne Duncan of the Obama administration, and former President George W. Bush's Education Secretary Margaret Spelling — penned an article in The Atlantic calling reopening essential, and outlining how it can be done safely. "The single most important thing," they say, is how the virus is controlled throughout the community. Schools should be "shielding the most vulnerable" and keeping at-risk students and staff home. Certain high-risk activities like team sports and choir should be cut. Barring nonessential school visits will help "keep the virus out," and masks are essential. Class sizes will need to shrink and split schedules could "reduce mixing among students and staff." Above all else, the experts add, schools need to "prepare for cases" and be ready to close at any time.
One worrying side-effect of coronavirus lockdown? Kids are going to bed later, researchers say. "Every day became a weekend," sleep expert Donn Posner tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Plus, many overworked parents don't have the energy to enforce a strict routine at the end of the day, so they're letting bedtime creep later and later. But "now is the time to put [kids] to bed early," writes Erin Leyba, L.C.S.W., Ph.D, at Psychology Today. Research shows that kids need their sleep so they can process their emotions, which is important right now, as "many are experiencing a range of 'big feelings' related to life changes from COVID-19," Leyba says. Plus, this new schedule won't last forever. When normal life returns, the transition back into a routine will be harder for kids whose sleep patterns have shifted. So when bedtime approaches, encourage children to turn off the video games, put their phones away, and get some shut-eye.
Do kids need drama?
"We're 82 days into lockdown, and I'm having a parenting wobble," writes Claire Gillespie at The Week. "Not because my kids are unhappy, but because … well, they're too happy." Without the friendship drama that often accompanies adolescence, her kids, ages 9 and 12, seem to be positively thriving. Is this worrying? Not really, experts say. In fact, it makes sense. "The process of maturing takes tremendous emotional energy, and I imagine a break from that level of effort is welcomed," says psychiatrist and author Gayani DeSilva, M.D. But teen "drama" isn't all bad. It teaches kids to handle "rejection, learning patience, give-and-take, how to identify quality friends, letting things go," says clinical psychologist and parenting evaluator Melanie English. She suggests parents use coronavirus-imposed isolation as a chance to teach kids proper coping mechanisms, and help them identify stable, healthy friendships.
"Parents, take more pictures of yourself!" pleads Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. It makes sense that your photo roll is full of snaps of your kiddos, but don't avoid the occasional selfie, or appearing alongside your child in a shot. Your kids will someday cherish those memories of you. "How many of us grew up with parents or grandparents who avoided any and all photos?" Moravcik Walbert asks, remembering how her own mother would "throw up a hand to block her own face" in pictures. "Didn't she think her grandchildren would want pictures of her one day? Wouldn't they want to remember how involved she was in their lives? … Take pictures with your kids. Let them take pictures of you. If you hate them, you don't have to post them. But save them for your kids to cherish later."