Way back B.C. (Before Coronavirus), a chief complaint from kids about their parents went something like this: “All my mom cares about is her phone” or “My Dad doesn’t really talk to me.” For years, too many of us have been in a state of continuous partial attention. Even when someone was sobbing in front of us, we’d have one eye on our phones. But now, confined in the chaos, we have an opportunity: for a parenting Do Over.
First off, we need to know the difference between Us and Them—in mind and in body.
Our kids are worried and anxious, just as we are. But we’re the ones in charge—their Reassurers-in-Chief. They need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.
“Don’t wait for them to
bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Dr. Robin Gurwitch, psychiatry
professor at Duke University School of Medicine, on a call with reporters about
the virus and mental health. “That way, you can get a sense of their
understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.”
To ensure lots of reassuring face-to-face contact and hugs, we can take a tip from the helpful American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Planner: establish zones in the household and times of day (at least at meals and bedtime) that are free from distractions such as personal technology—theirs and ours.
This post is written with all due respect and the fervent hope for the ultimate wellbeing of all those directly fighting coronavirus. Those at home containing the threat must also summon strength from within.
This will require endurance and for us to bedurable in body, mind, and our relationships.
Luckily, the intuition, generosity, humor and other human assets we possess shine brightly during difficult times. They’ll get us through—along with some good planning and design.
To that end, here are some practical, empowering, mostly no-cost strategies so you, your children, or other members of your household can be durable, happier, and more hopeful managers of the day to day:
Before coronavirus, kids had complaints like “all my mom cares about is her phone” and “I can’t get my dad’s attention.” In these scary times, our loved ones need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.
When talking to a child—or anyone in the household—look in their eyes and listen closely to what they say. Your undivided attention helps them feel safe and secure.
At last, a sleek touch-screen starter phone made just for kids. The big difference: it can’t access to the Internet. “It’s not that it’s blocked. It really doesn’t exist on the phone,” says Stephen Dalby, founder of Gabb Wireless. “On our cellular network, the only thing you will find will be safe phones for kids.”
Being a dad launched Dalby on his design journey. “I had to get a phone for my son and I just didn’t feel comfortable with the options that were out there.”
As a first step toward a full-fledged smartphone, Gabb Basic has plenty for kids to learn. They can call, text, and use the calendar, alarm and calculator apps. What they can’t do is play video games, use social media, shop in app stores, send picture messages, or group text.