Ep. 43 - LiveWell Talk On...COVID-19 and Children (Dr. Leslie Greenlee)
April 22, 2020
Ep. 43 - LiveWell Talk On...COVID-19 and Children
Host: Dr. Dustin Arnold, chief medical officer, UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital
Guest: Leslie Greenlee, DO, UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics
This is LiveWell Talk On…COVID-19 in Children. I'm Dr. Dustin Arnold, chief medical officer at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital. Joining us today is UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Leslie Greenlee to talk about the importance of staying active and maintaining a routine for elementary age children. The COVID -19 pandemic not only influences the behavior of parents but also puts a lot back on the children. Welcome.
Thanks Dr. Arnold. I'm happy to be here.
Previous podcasts we've focused on the family and the quarantine and shelter in place. So today I want to just focus on the little ones, which is your specialty in how this is impacting them and what we should be doing to not forget about them in this time because you have limited play dates and kids love to slobber on each other and they're not having that interaction that they did previously. What is the one piece of advice that you would give to parents that have young children on what to be doing with this? The stay at home order and what should they be doing in their household?
Yeah. So it is different for these kids because they are used to being at school or being at daycare where they have a lot of social interaction. So if it's a family that has several other kids at home, you know grabbing the older kids and having them play something specific with the younger kids. And just trying to be intentional as a family with activities you can do. This past weekend we went camping in our basement. We can’t go and be free with friends camping, but we put up a tent in the basement and the kids enjoyed it. And so just trying tocome up with activities around the house that you can do as a family or even that the kids can do together so that they're still having some social interaction without necessarily being with their friends or being with their classmates or other kids at daycare.
Yeah. I had a high school teacher once say the purpose of school was to teach you how to punch in and punch out and be on time so you could work the rest of your life in a factory could be a whole another podcast on the ramifications of that. But routine's important. I know I have my routine, we all like the tranquility of the familiar. And so what's your advice as far as maintaining a routine?
Routine is very important, especially for kids. You think about it, they go to get in the car, they have no idea where they're going. So what's the first question they ask? Where are we going? We take that stuff for granted. So I think when their schedule is different and their routine is off, it creates more anxiety in them. Anxiety is reflected by behavior, outbursts and, more tears or they are just kind of reserved to their room. So I think it's very important even with the small kids to keep them on a similar routine. Still need to have bedtimes, still need to wake up at a similar time, scheduled breakfast, schedule snacks, schedule lunch. You know, keep them in that routine cause then they thrive better. They know what to expect day in, day out and it's just less stressful for them.
Do you have any patients? I'm sure you do. Maybe you homeschool your own. I don't know, but that, cause I imagine if you're a homeschool, this is probably like, Oh yeah, this is just another day of the week.
We don’t normally homeschool our children, but we are attempting that right now. And it is, it's very challenging. Children aren't used to learning in the environment that they're in right now. They're not used to having to do a lot of homework and a lot of focused hours of school at home. They are able to separate home with fun.
The skill set to teach them the things that they need to like, like teachers do. And so you know, a lot of schools are sending curriculum for you to kind of incorporate at home. But I think the number one thing to keep your kids doing is reading, you know, practice writing. And parents need to know that they need to give themselves permission to not be perfect, to do the best they can, but continue to engage with your kids. Kids right now are getting a lot of screen time just because they're home more and that's okay that they get a little extra screen time, but just don't stick them in front of a tablet or a TV or a video game all day long. Try to be intentional with at least reading to them, reading with them, talking about the book, having them sit down and do some quiet reading. You know, there's lots of online learning that they can do as well. There's math websites out there that they can work on their math skills and stuff. It doesn't have to be formal learning like they would get in a classroom, but I think there's a lot of resources out there and we just have to be open to non traditional learning right now.
This frequent theme of my podcast are bashing on social media, how bad it is, which is the ultimate and hypocrisy because a lot of people are using social media to listen to this podcast that we'll set that aside. But what's your philosophy on social media in general prior to this as a pediatrician and now?
So social media is good and it's bad, right? Everything is out there. People tend to put only the best, greatest things about their life on social media. And so it gives a perspective that everyone's life is better than my own. And so I think that's really hard, especially for the adolescents and teenagers. It really increases rates of depression and anxiety. And so in general, you know, social media canbe detrimental to some kids. But also there's a lot of information out there as well. And so I think you can learn a lot and you can get a lot of ideas from other people. What are other families doing right now during the coronavirus is chalking the walk. So doing different, sidewalk chalk to encourage the neighbors and, you know, putting all the hearts in the windows and stuff that was started on social media.
There are a lot of things that we can learn and we take away from social media, but we have to have limits on it. We can't just be on it all the time and we have to really filter what our kids see, what kind of sites they're on and what social media that they're following because that can be really harmful for them. As far as screen time, what, what is your like, okay, X number of minutes. So generally I say less than two hours a day. It certainly depends on the child. And kind of their developmental level. You know, for the littler kids, they certainly don't need any to under I would say definitely less than an hour a day. Those older kids, definitely less than two hours a day. If you're getting a lot more than that, then maybe do it as a family.
Sit down and watch a movie together. I know that that's going to exceed some screen limit allotments, but at least you're doing it together as a family. You know, if you're going to play video games, maybe sit down with your son or daughter and play it with them. So at least you're spending some time with them, even though they're getting a little extra screen time. It's important that families just give themselves a break and try to keep that as a guideline. Some days you might have a little bit more, some days you might have a little bit less. And I think right now times are different. And so we want to be intentional. We want to still limit that and be aware of what they're on and what they're watching and what they're spending their time doing. And knowing that they may have a little bit extra just with the extra time at home and more of the learning is online too.
We assume that we're good parents and I hope that we all are, are trying our best, which I think we do. What are the, what are some red flags as a parent that I should say, this is not working with my child as far as anxiety and routine, et cetera.
Yeah. so I think, you know, all kids are going to have their behavior outbursts there, you know, tearful periods. It's just what amount of time are they spending in these behaviors? Is it getting to the point where it's detrimental to the family unit as a whole? Is it happening on a daily basis? Is the family not functioning well because of these particular behaviors? And I think what is important for families to know is that it's okay to reach out for help if you're not sure if this is normal or not.
We're here, we're happy to answer your phone calls, we're happy to talk about it. And just by making a phone call doesn't mean something is wrong with your child. Doesn't mean they need medication, doesn't mean they're bad or naughty just means we're all going through something different right now. And it's okay to reach out and ask for help. But certainly if the behavior is worse than normal and it's really starting to affect maybe some of the other family members and the burden of it is greater than at baseline.
How do you communicate to children what the importance of social distancing and staying home is at this time? I mean, you hate to say, well if you go see grandma grandpas, they're going to die. You know, that's not a great parenting skill. How do you explain that? How do you make them understand that this is important?
You know, I think you have to keep it simple and you have to know the maturity level of your child to, you know, some children are definitely going to ask more questions about it and some are just going to simply be like, okay, this is what mom and dad have told me we have to do. This is what we're doing. And so I, I think just simply telling them that, you know, we're trying to keep people safe and that is why we're staying at home. And you know, some kids that's enough. That's all we have to say. Others, the older kids but, but why, but I miss this. Why does it matter? My kids have asked me but we're healthy. We're not going to get sick. Why is it important? And I think it's just important that we tell them that it could affect our grandparents, it could affect people.
We love people that other people love, you know, and, and it's just, this is our part, this is how we can help. And this is how we can help others is by staying in and staying away from others. And this is just temporary, it will go away. I don't know when it's going to go away, but it will eventually go away. And so maybe giving them things to look forward to, you know, what do you want to do when all of this is over? And giving them some little glimmer of hope or light at the end of the tunnel that it is going to go away. But we can't promise them a certain day or time because we don't know that. But I do think, you know, we have a tendency to talk about COVID 19 you know, with other adults in the home or talk on the phone.
And I do know that like the older age, you know, even like the nine tens and the adolescents and teenagers, they pick up on all of it and it can cause them to be very anxious if we talk too much about it or if we keep the news on and we're constantly perseverating on it. So it is important that we separate, you know, what we talk to our kids about with what we talked to other adults about it.
That's good advice. You know, I, the analogy I keep using, think of all the car accidents that happen in the United States over here. What if they all happen on one Tuesday? It would just overwhelm fire police in the hospitals and, and that's why we're trying to do this. We don't want it to all happen at once. And I do think we are making we are flattening that curve is they like to say one last question.
I love kids obviously, but kids are so resilient, they get knocked down hard and they rebound right back up there. No two days is the same. I mean kids just have a lot of spunk, a lot of personality. They have a lot of energy and I just love what I do and I love little ones. And I think the resiliency, it's probably my favorite thing.
Thank you so much for joining us today. That was Dr. Greenlee with UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics.