Are my kids safe? Is it OK for them to attend school or should they be kept home to learn virtually? What if they get sick? What if I get sick? What if they want a playdate? How can we cope if it seems overwhelming?
Parenting already seemed daunting, but parenting during a pandemic? It’s filled with starts and stops, rapidly changing information, anxiety, guilt and exhaustion.
Does that sound familiar to you? You’re not alone.
Maribelis Perez, a pediatrician at Premier Community HealthCare’s Dade City office, said parents, teachers and caregivers must focus on their physical and emotional health during these challenging times of COVID-19.
“As parents, it’s important to get educated about everything that is going on,’’ Perez said during a recent Zoom video teleconference with the public. “Pandemics aren’t new. They have happened before. But, this one has brought everything to our doors.
“Prevention is always going to be the key. We have always known that infectious diseases can be prevented by simple measures such as hand-washing. Think about just six months ago, how careless we were. Now, we are washing our hands like our lives depend on it.’’
Hand-washing is a tangible answer.
Perez said many parents are searching for solutions when it comes to emotional losses. That is more difficult to define.
“We all have been stressed and anxious,’’ Perez said. “This is all very challenging. We need to remind our children they’re not alone with these feelings. We need to normalize that feeling and validate it. We can provide reassurance and tell them how to be safe, but we can’t control everything.’’
For kids who are employing virtual learning at home, there is some control that parents can utilize, though.
“It’s unrealistic to think the kids are going to stare at their screens for hour after hour,’’ Perez said. “There must be some breaks and pauses. They have to be engaged in some activity and movement. Let them dance. Let them stretch. It’s always hard, depending on the setup at home, but there must be some form of down time.’’
Preparation is also important for at-home learning, Perez said.
“We’ve all been forced to rethink our daily lives,’’ Perez said. “None of us were necessarily prepared to turn our homes into classrooms. But, if your children are staying home to learn, it really helps to have a stimulating environment, whether it’s a small space or a large space.
“They must have the necessary tools for schoolwork without the distraction of televisions and other things. Ideally, they are not in their bedroom or in bed. Those two spaces should be separated. There must be a way to emphasize and prioritize the schoolwork.’’
For children returning to the school campus, there are different issues.
“Obviously, people with various conditions, such as respiratory illnesses and diabetes, may be at higher risk, not just (to) corona, but (to) other viruses, as well,’’ Perez said. “Conversations need to take place with health care providers, and it’s how you feel as a parent, as well.
“Schools have been working on solutions for about six months now. They are keeping kids 6 feet apart in the areas where they congregate. A lot are making use of their outdoor spaces. Face coverings and face shields are going to be really important. The hand-washing and using hand sanitizer is also very big. Most schools have escalated their cleaning. I think the proper precautions are being taken. But, of course, it’s still an individual choice for each family, and it’s not an easy choice.’’
Regardless of the school choice, Perez said it’s imperative to have healthy routines.
“Daily habits and daily routines are so important,’’ Perez said. “Set up the alarm clock to get the child moving. Have an hour a day where they’re walking outside. Get to bed early and get eight to nine hours of sleep.
“Don’t forget the eating habits. When kids are at home, it’s important not to overeat. Try to work on portion control. Drink water most of the time because we often confuse being thirsty for being hungry. Just do all you can to model healthy habits because they are so important in these times. And, know that when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, those are common feelings for everyone. Take a deep breath and know that we will all get through this,” Perez said.
By Joey Johnston
Published September 09, 2020