Coping With Coronavirus As A Family | New Hampshire Public Radio

Coping With Coronavirus As A Family

Mar 18, 2020

Children of all ages are at home full time now that schools have cancelled classes due to coronavirus concerns. That means that parents have to juggle work as well as their kids' education and other activities. How have they been grappling with the situation at home while trying to keep their families healthy? We talk Thursday, March 19, with Dawn Huebner and K.J Dell'Antonia about helping families cope with having their children at home. 

Click here to read all of NHPR's coverage of coronavirus. 

Air date: Thursday, March 19, 2020. 

GUESTS:

For those parents looking for guidelines about quarantine and playdates, NPR has a helpful primer here

Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy. and this is The Exchange.

Dawn Huebner:
If kids out of school, college students home early, many parents trying to telework and all normal activities canceled, Granite Staters may find themselves suddenly in close quarters all day, every day, and trying to establish a new normal. And that's what we're looking at today. In exchange, how families are navigating spending time together while adjusting to new job and school arrangements. Listeners, we would love to hear your stories. How are you managing in your household? And we'd love to hear from you and your kids. So if you're one of our younger listeners, what's been the hardest thing for you and what do you want your parents to know? Give us a call. We have two guests for the hour, both of them remote. And again, I am continuing for the foreseeable future to host remotely myself. Joining us from Exeter is Dawn Huebner.

Dawn Huebner:
She's a psychologist specializing in anxiety. She's a nationally recognized author of several books for Kids on Coping with Fear and Anxiety. These include Something Bad Happened A Kid's Guide to Learning about Events in the News. And Dawn's latest blog post is talking to children about coronavirus actual words for actual parents. Dawn Huebner, a big welcome back. Thank you very much.

Dawn Huebner:
Thanks for having me.

And joining us from the Upper Valley is KJ Dell'Antonia. She's author of a parenting and writing blog, the former lead editor for The New York Times Motherlode blog. Cage's most recent book is How to be a Happier Parent Raising a Family, Having a Life and Loving Almost Every Minute. And KJ, that's a theme we'll be talking about today. Thank you so much. It's great to have you back on The Exchange as well.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Oh, it's great to be here.

Laura Knoy:
So, KJ, what is it like at your house these days?

KJ Dell'Antonia:
At my house, I have four kids and I have a two eighth graders, a sophomore in high school and a an 18 year old who was on a gap year, so 18 year old had been traveling. Fortunately, was back in the country before any of this started. But his plans to leave the country again are now shuttered. Also, his secondary plan to go and get a nice restaurant job for the spring and the summer also not working out so well, you know, and the kids, the younger kids have got online school, three different schools, three different schedules, you know, Internet, barely sort of handling the various things.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
It's it's it's it's crazy. But we're we're we're coping.

Laura Knoy:
So KJ again, you've got an 18 year old, a sophomore who's probably like 16 and then two younger kids. How old are the younger ones are they're there.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
So they're eighth graders and they're both 14, literally. One of them turned 14 on Monday. So it was a very mixed blessing for him. He was pretty pleased not to be actually going to school, but not so. Please.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
We we actually frantically threw together a last minute small, small, small birthday thing for him on Friday of last week as it started to look like all of this was gonna happen. Really? Thanks in part to my 15 year old, my sophomore, who was just like, we're getting we're getting two friends and we're gone. We're getting in the car and we're going to an escape room.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
So that's that's what we did. And I'm so glad that we did it because. Yeah, here we are.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Dawn, how about you? What are you hearing from clients about how their lives are going these days?

Dawn Huebner:
You know, it's interesting. Among the families that I see, normally, children are thrilled to have a day off from school. And so the prospect of many days off from school in some ways is exciting. But kids are also clearly confused. And that I'm seeing largely elementary school children and they recognize that something really big is happening for things to have changed as dramatically and as quickly as they have. So, you know, parents are, I think, really working hard to try to figure out like, you know, what's our new schedule going to be? And what do I tell my children and what do I not tell my children? And so there's just lots of kind of angst and confusion. Right now, I think.

Dawn Huebner:
Well, I definitely want to ask you in a few minutes, Dawn, about talking to kids. And again, that recent blog post you wrote, talking to children about the coronavirus, actual words for actual parents. But since you mentioned routine, I'd love to talk to both of you about that. And Dawn, you first. You know, kids thrive on routine and here they are, all their routines interrupted, no school, no sleepovers, no sports, no anything, really. How does this affect kids, Dawn?

Dawn Huebner:
Yes. So routine is hugely important, in part because it communicates to children that the adults are on top of what's happening. And we do want to communicate that to our kids. It's even if we don't feel entirely on top of what's happening. So just the basics, like still having a bedtime, eating regular meals, having your kids get dressed in the morning rather than having it be pajama day all day. Those kinds of things communicate to kids a sense of safety and some kind of normalcy. There's going to be a new normal. Is it normal, as you said? But, you know, we want our kids to understand that there is some structure. And so we maintain the old routines that we can maintain. And hopefully people are actively working to start putting in place some new routines that have to do with being home together all day.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and listeners, again, we want to know how you've been dealing with this new reality. If you're home listening with your kids, we'd like to hear from them, too. Are you putting in new routines? Are you creating a new normal or are you just sort of scrambling still, like many Granite Staters trying to figure it all out? We want your stories, your comments. And KJ, how about you? So you just described earlier you've got four kids at home for teenagers. What's been the impact, the impact of this upset to routine and the taking away of pretty much almost everything. Kids enjoy.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
We are. We're really trying to figure out how to put in place a routine and what to put put in place. So as you said, I have teenagers at home and these are they are they're fully aware of what's happening and sometimes more informed than I am. So we don't have the talking to them about it issue. But they the two of them, we're supposed playing hockey tournaments last weekend that were were canceled. You know, one of them's had all his whole his they're upset. So.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
My husband and I have been debating, he says all well, they should they should get up in the morning just the same as they normally would.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
And I say, well, you know, this is gonna be rough and they can do their online school when they get up. If they would prefer to shift their schedule, I'm not sure. I see.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
You know, it seems to me like we've taken away enough. And if that's something that we would consider a benefit, it might be good. So we're debating that also in part because we have a lot of animals around here. And if they don't get up in the morning, the chores have to be done by those of us that wants to be up.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
So we're trying to figure that out and I'm not sure how it will shape up.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. And it's good to get the animals because you got to get up and take care of them, so that's at least not changed. You're also outdoors. K.J., you live sort of out in the country. So how is that helping?

KJ Dell'Antonia:
We do, and it helps a lot. And for Granite Staters that are in that same position. I think, you know, we should definitely take a minute to realize how fortunate we are not to be in a major city or a major suburban area. I we went for a hike yesterday. We've got we have riding horses here. So we're still able to do that. We have other animals to care for here. We're actually going to celebrate. Right. This is that that is definitely not the right word, but something that I'm doing as a family that we would not have been doing is we are getting a puppy. Oh, no. You know what? I'll set the bar high. Everybody saw we were going to die last year. And then we weren't able to because of family circumstances. So we've we're we're pulling it together and we're going to add a big dog to the family in April.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Well, there you go. And I actually saw somebody out on my walk in the woods to de-stress. I actually ran into some neighbors who did the same thing. They'd just gotten a puppy. They're like, all right, where I won't lie to, too.

Laura Knoy:
So Kim from Hopkinton sent us an e-mail on this theme. Who says Kim says We're taking a walk in a different town or city park or conserve land each morning. And then our son begins his online schoolwork. Kim says a huge shout out to those organizations such as Five Rivers Conservation Trust and private property owners who have conserve their land and allowed the public to use the trails. So that's from Kim in Hopkinton and Kim. I was on some of the trails in Concord yesterday, too, and was very grateful for that opportunity. Thanks for writing in. Again, you can write in, tell us how you are coping and dealing with all just the upset in family routines and people kind of being practicing social distancing with each other. Give us an email exchange at NHP Morg or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. So Dawn, to you, KJ, you mentioned she's got teenagers, so they kind of get what's going on, but you work with the younger set. How do you recommend that parents talk to kids about what's going on and why everything has changed so much and so quickly?

Dawn Huebner:
So the perspective that I'm recommending has to do with talking to kids about Corona virus, you know, talking about that there's a whole class of viruses called Corona virus, and we've all had that virus. So you want to make it familiar in some way rather than completely. I'm going to use the word forin which I mean, unfamiliar and scary. And then to talk to kids about there's a new version of that virus that seems virus that we've all had. And we don't know as much about it, but we do know some things. And one of the things we know is that people who are basically healthy and people who are younger tend not to get terribly sick from it, but people who are older or people who already have illnesses or issues that they're dealing with, it get sicker.

Dawn Huebner:
So one of the things that we're doing is we're all banding together to try to protect the people that are more vulnerable.

Dawn Huebner:
So the perspective that I think is helpful for kids is to understand that the extreme measures that we're taking are not so much because each of us is at high risk, but because we're trying to help and protect other people. And so that makes it less scary in an immediate way for kids. And it allows them to understand that this is something pro-social that they're doing, you know, something positive that they're doing kind of for the good of everyone else in the world. And I think that helps kids to think about it that way if they're anxious.

Laura Knoy:
Dawn, how might younger kids act out on that? Because I'm guessing they won't come to, you know, their parents and say, mom or dad, I'm I'm upset. Could you help me, please? I mean, kids kids act out when they're anxious or upset or confused.

Dawn Huebner:
Yeah. So for many kids, it's things like clinging or crying. Some kids, when parents try to talk directly about what's happening, they'll just shut down, you know, and want to talk about it. Or I know. I know. You know, they'll kind of shut their parents down. That's often a sign of anxiety. Some kids get more irritable when they're anxious. So I've been talking to kids who are afraid that the current situation is never going to end, like they're never going to be able to go back to school. They're never going to be able to travel safely and comfortably again.

Dawn Huebner:
And so sometimes kids are voicing specific fears about things that, you know, certainly parents can address those kinds of specific fears or clear fears.

Laura Knoy:
What do you recommend parents do? Dawn, when a kid is, you know, acting out, being kind of a brat and, you know, the parents are under stress, too. So it's hard not to just yell or say, stop it or what's the matter with you or go to your room. How do you recommend parents sort of think about this if kids are feeling anxious, scared or even just frustrated by all these restrictions on their lives?

Dawn Huebner:
Yeah, I was going to say that I think that the bulk of the acting out that parents are going to see probably has less to do with anxiety and more to do with disappointment and frustration. And, you know, feelings that are really normal and understandable and. The situation, right? So I think that parents want to begin with empathy and even when their kids are acting bratty or irritating for parents to acknowledge. I get it. There are so many things that you were looking forward to that have gotten canceled or have gotten delayed or you know, I understand it's hard to be home all the time. It's hard to not be able to see your friends or go to soccer or do the things that you're used to. So we want to acknowledge feelings and kind of wrap words around feelings and legitimize feelings so that our kids can feel heard and feel understood even though they're not communicating directly to us.

Dawn Huebner:
I love your thoughts, KJ. Oh, sorry. Go ahead, Dawn.

Dawn Huebner:
I was just to say, I think parents want to be really careful about kind of coming down punitively on their kids and, you know, be recognizing that this is just a really, really stressful time. And when kids are misbehaving, it's a sign that they need more support from us and more understanding and empathy from us.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, boy. It's hard, though, huh? I mean, speaking as a parent, I mean, I've got my own thing going on and I'm trying to host a radio show from home. And, you know, it's a lot of us home and there's friends. We're missing our activities. The gym is girls, you know. Yes. Yes. There's a going to manage and sell tickets tonight. You know, the whole thing, so. Right. Right. It's hard to be empathetic.

Laura Knoy:
There's lots of self-care we need to be doing. We need to be acknowledging our own losses and disappointments and frustrations. And you know, working to kind of deal with those things. Yeah. This is a lot.

Laura Knoy:
Yes. And it's hard to feel that empathy. We're going to turn to K.J when you've got your own stresses and you just see, you know, your kids basically sitting on the couch for eight hours. You know, you think how stress can they be there on the coast? You know, so I just I'd love to hear your thoughts, too, on sort of parents navigating that less than stellar behavior from kids because they're frustrated, bored, anxious, whatever.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Well, it is a tough time and we really need to look at our individual kids and figure out where we need to go with this. We have sort of taken another tack, which is, well, we have a family member in the ICU. So it is actually not hard for us to take this extremely seriously.

Laura Knoy:
I'm sorry to hear that. KJ.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Out things. So things. I know. I know things changed fast pretty dramatically when we when that happened. And so for my kids to sit down and say, look, you know. Sure. You knew in the abstract why we were doing this. But this is you know, this is the reality of what's happening and this is what we're trying to prevent. You have other family members that you know and love and see often, including this one who are also at risk in the same way. And you have neighbors in this position. So with my teenagers. I think helping them to appreciate the. So, you know, there's a line between the gravity of the situation and the scariness of this. Like, I don't want them to be frightened. As Dawn said, it's you know, she she talked about the ways that the virus is something that our bodies can handle. If we're young and healthy for the most part. But I also want them to understand that those people who can't. Those are not abstract people. You know, those are real people that we can name and touch. And when we. It's one thing to sort of take this. We want to see the dark humor in this because there's a lot of it. And we want to make the best of it. And we're absolutely doing that.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
But understanding, standing that it's real, I think is it's kind of big for poor teenagers. I think it's important.

Laura Knoy:
All right. Coming up, we have a lot more to talk about. I'll pick up on that point that you made, KJ And we'll hear more of your stories about family coping during the Corona virus shut down. So stay with us. This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy.. Today, families are making all kinds of adjustments with kids home from school. Many parents still working. Most activities shut down and the demands of social distancing. It can all get quite messy for families and tempers may run short. Tell us how your household is doing. Parents, we want to hear from you. What new routines you may be trying to establish or if you've just thrown routine out the window and smaller, younger listeners. Kids, if you want to tell us how you're doing in these times, we'd love to hear from you, too. Now, on social distancing, safe practices, we did get a lot of great questions about this before the show. And I just want to say, our guests today are not experts on infectious disease, so they can't provide recommendations on that, but just give a flavor of some of the concerns that parents have on our survey.

Laura Knoy:
Devin wrote, I wonder what things are acceptable to be doing. No museums, gyms, large gatherings. What about the time library? What about family members, friends? What are the general guidelines on things not specified? I want to do my civic duty. Devon says to keep others safe. But at the same time I still want to see my family member. Jennifer writes, School's out, sun's out. Fresh air is good. Can I kids play with the neighbor's children inside or outside or neither? Everyone is healthy now, but what if it's undetected? And then here's a note from Inon who writes, My children thought it was like a vacation until they realized mom and dad and other teachers. We are engaging them in conversations about the pandemic. My 14 year old thought sleepovers were going to happen. Nope, says Inon. Now we've put some of the best advice we could find from top health officials on our Web site, But KJ, just to reiterate, in your house, you are not having your kids see anyone at this point.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Where we're not and actually I made a mistake about that yesterday that I. I want to own because I think I'm probably not the only one. So we loaded I loaded up a couple of kids and we got in the car and we went to a nature preserve. We could just we could just walk out our door and go to the nature. You know, we live in nature, but we went to meet another family and we thought the other parent and I both thought it would be easier for the kids if we weren't near one of the houses. So we drove and met in a parking lot and went for a really nice hike. And at the end of it, two of the kids just started to beg.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Can't we please. You know, and this this other kid. I mean, this is practically a family member. There are times in summer when this kid is at my house for, you know, a week or vice vice versa.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
And I initially I said yes, and we got home. And my husband called and told me about a new, you know, a new case of the virus that had come close to actually both of our families. And I thought about it for about ten minutes. And I went in and I said to both the kids, I'm sorry, I made a mistake. And, you know, we gotta I gotta run you home. This is not this is not in keeping with the spirit of what we're doing. And also it's just it's just not smart. And, you know, things may change into weeks if we've all been home for a long time. You know, if we've all really been home and quarantined, we may be able to pick some people. And we do have one. My daughter babysits for a family and they. As far we've talked about it. And they're in our bubble because it would be a real hardship for that family if my daughter stopped babysitting. So we're that's the bubble. But the friend. That's that's not the bubble. And so I ran the friend home and told everyone I had made a mistake. And, you know, to be honest. And then I cried because I screwed up. And also because I just felt so terrible about the way that that played out. That was real. And I thought I was not a fan. Fun moment.

Laura Knoy:
I think your story reflects KJ, the anxiety that parents have because the advice is changing. You know, every day, sometimes every hour, I'm we're all just trying to figure it out. So I'm actually glad that you told us that story, quite honestly, about the mistake you made because everybody's just trying to figure it out. We had a listener call in to just couldn't stay on the line. But just want to thank you guys, Dawn and Kati, for sharing your stories, for talking personally about this. So thanks to that listener. And really, I want to thank both of you also for being honest about it.

Laura Knoy:
And you know, I want to talk to you a little bit, Dawn, please, about I don't know how else to put it, but like people judging other people or everybody kind of questioning parents and the decisions that they're making. And just talk a little bit more, if you could, please, about the anxiety that that parents have. They want to do the right thing, but they're just not sure sometimes.

Dawn Huebner:
Yeah. So I think it's important to understand that fear is an internal signal that there's something that we need to pay attention to. And so we pay attention to the danger and we make a plan about keeping ourselves safe. And after that, the fear is unproductive. So once we've made our plan and we're following our plan and in part of what's difficult right now is we have to keep modifying the plan as more and write the plan. Yes, right. But in a basic way, once we've made our plan and we're starting to follow it and then we continue to feel actively anxious who are afraid. It's it's important, too, to know that that fear or anxiety is no longer serving us.

Dawn Huebner:
And so to try to do things, to help to quiet that fear and to move in more positive or productive directions like, you know, making this new normal work as well as possible. I think your question about the tendency to judge other people is a really interesting one, because we're all looking to what other people are doing in part to confirm whether or not we're doing the right thing. And in part out of fear, you know, if we see someone making other choices, we might feel like that's putting people at risk or that's not helpful. And I think we all need to check that tendency to be making those judgments and to to practice kind of loving kindness and to recognize that everyone is doing their best. And then we're all in this together. But yeah. And there's a tremendous amount of cognitive and emotional work that is being required of all of us right now.

Laura Knoy:
Again, I want to hear from listeners your stories about your family's struggles and how your family is managing, perhaps being all kind of on top of each other. We heard earlier from K.J, who says she's got four kids at home. And I've heard from other people who have one or two kids who are still in school. And then, lo and behold, the college students come back. So we'd love your stories, your comments and maybe your tips for other people about how you're managing.

Laura Knoy:
Also, our younger listeners, kids, some talking to you now. What's been the hardest thing for you about all this? Give us a call. So KJ and Dawn, both of you have touched on how routine's have been disrupted and how that can be stressful for kids, even though initially it's like woo pajama day every day.

Laura Knoy:
Both of you, I think. Dawn, you first. How much should it be a goal to stick to a routine, given that, you know, parents routines have been up ended and all the routine things that we do have been shut off from us? So how important is it to even try?

Dawn Huebner:
It's actually hugely important, but it doesn't need to be the same as the old routine. Great. So certainly for teenagers who have been waking up at 5:30 in the morning to go to school, they don't need to wake up at 5:30. But there does need to be a wake up time and some kind of pattern to the day. So for right now, I think it's completely understandable that that everyone is in a scrambling to figure this out mode. But I think for parents to be moving towards creating some kind of. Pattern of what are our days going to look like and to be, you know, over the next few days, next week, starting to put in place some kind of structure. It doesn't need to be the same structures as in the past. It can't be the same structures in the past. But having some sort of structure is just hugely important.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. And so. KJ Have you been able to do that yet? It's still early.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
We really have not. And I think another an interesting flip. Good something that goes along with this conversation is the question of how much we're going to help our kids with their online school. How much of it is going to be their responsibility and how much of it we're going to take on as our responsibilities. Of course, that's going to vary from age to age. But I think that's an interesting thing to really look at, because in some ways this can be an opportunity for our kids to begin finding their. You know, finding a way to create their own schedules so maybe with older kids, instead of imposing trying to work on creating that together, I think that's that's where we're leaning.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
And Laura, one of my kids has just come in and I think she'd I actually just I sent out a message to the house and said, if anyone would like to come in and tell The Exchange what's been hardest for them about this, they would be welcome to. So sorry to surprise you with that. Well, no know. I've been wanting to hear from young people. Yeah. Yeah. Put her on the right. Absolutely. Is Lily my 15 year old, and she's going to be wearing my headset for a second.

Laura Knoy:
Ok. No, it's great. Really want to hear from younger listeners even when they are children of our guests. That is absolutely allowed. So, Lily, welcome.

Lily :
Hi.

Laura Knoy:
Hi. So you're fifteen. What would you normally be doing this time of year, Lily?

Lily :
I'd normally be going to school and hanging out with friends and riding my horses.

Laura Knoy:
How do you play sports? Lily?

Lily :
I ride horses in the spring, which I'm still able to do because our horses are at our house. And so I actually had more time to ride my horses with this.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, right. Well, that's good. I should probably come up and ride horses with you since so many sports have been canceled. What's been hardest for you, Lily?

Lily :
It's hard because I can't see my school friends, which I can text them, but I'm not a huge fan of just texting or face dialing. I'd like to actually see them. And also we canceled our April plans with our family, friends who live in California. And so we've been based hiring them, but it's not the same because we don't get to see them that often. So I was looking forward to seeing them.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, yeah. I had a similar situation to people, to families, different families. Were gonna visit our house in the spring, one from one family from Germany, one family from France. And that doesn't look like that's gonna happen. And it's really, really just disappointing and sad. What do you want your parents, Lily and other parents to know?

Lily :
I want them to know that I can handle the online learning myself like I don't need pressure to do it. I'm actually excited to do it myself and I can make my own schedule and just handle it.

Laura Knoy:
I got a similar message from my 16 year old yesterday. Let me handle it. I'm sure if he's listening, he would appreciate you saying that. What about your friends? Lily, what are you hearing from them? What are they struggling with?

Lily :
I think a lot of them are struggling because they can't really get out of the house and do things with other friends much so they've just spent a lot of times, a lot of time texting on our group chat, which has blown up recently bad because they don't have anything to do.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Social isolation, it's hard. What about you've got all those siblings there, your mom told us so there's four kids in the house along with your parents. Are the siblings? Is that helpful to have them around or are you guys all getting on each other's nerves?

Lily :
I think we're definitely starting they can on each other's nerves, certainly. Day four, but we're already starting to get on each other's nerves. I haven't I've spent a lot of time outside and just like with my horse. So I've been how much to experience the chaos. But I do think we're starting to get on each other's nerves.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Anything else, Lily, from your perspective that you want our listeners to know about what this is like for a 15 year old?

Lily :
Well, I guess it's kind of scary because I don't really know what's happening, but it's also been nice to have a bit of a break from normal. And be able to kind of run my own schedule.

Laura Knoy:
Ok, Lily, thank you very much for coming to the mic, and if you want to grab a sibling if they're up yet. Feel free. Thank you very much for being with us. And Gordon, put your mom back on, please. OK.

Laura Knoy:
Dawn, it was great to hear from Lily. And it was so sad to hear about the social isolation that that young people feel. I mean, I miss my friends, too. But correct me if I'm wrong, Dawn. These social connections for young people are really, really, really important.

Dawn Huebner:
They are. They're huge. And I think that, you know, we definitely want to be just acknowledging the reality of how hard this is for kids and also helping them figure out creative ways to connect.

Laura Knoy:
You know, so Lily is texting and face timing, which is great, but kids can have sort of hang out together and watch on Netflix, movie together or show together. You know, there are ways that they can be together that are certainly not the same as they're accustomed to, but they're still being together in some way.

Laura Knoy:
It was great to hear from her. KJ, you're back with us.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
I am.

Laura Knoy:
Did you learn anything from listening to your daughter there?

KJ Dell'Antonia:
I knew that already, but it was nice to hear it from from her. That she wants it and that she's wants to own her own online schooling and that, you know, she she thinks that she's capable. I didn't know they felt like they were getting on each other's nerves yet, but I. I could probably have guessed.

Laura Knoy:
Well, it was interesting that Lily said it's only day four, so she's counting. And that was interesting for me to hear from her, because I know that earnings are counting. But she's well aware it's only day four.

Laura Knoy:
So it was really good to hear from her other young people if you were listening with your parents. We'd like to hear from you, too. Our phone number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Your parents can give us a call, tell us how they feel, and then you can get on the line. Tell us how you feel. 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Jane in Manchester writes The next few weeks and months will give parents and families the opportunity to read books and explore nature. Let's reset our priorities. Children who don't experience nature won't grow up to cherish and protected. Jane, thank you so much. And I will let you know that when I was out walking yesterday again in the woods, I saw a lot of little kids with their parents just kind of rolling around in the leaves and running around. And so that was great. Dawn, do you want to just reflect on what Jane said for a moment there, please?

Dawn Huebner:
Yeah. I love what she said about resetting priorities. Right.

Dawn Huebner:
So we have a period of time that we're all mourning the losses and we're all dealing with fear and uncertainty. And then we can start looking. This is and at this is an opportunity. Right. So what do we want to do? How do we want to be spending our time and encouraging our children to spend their time? You know, are there. Are there new things to learn? Are there projects we can help our kids take on? And I certainly agree that teens need to have more autonomy with their schedules and with their goals and with their projects. Younger kids need more structure than that. But I think in all of our families, we can be starting soon to make the shift to, OK, how am I going to live into this time? How am I going to use this time? Well, and that's an opportunity.

Laura Knoy:
Well, coming up, I'm going to ask both of you about screen time, because a lot of kids are spending a lot of time in front of the screen since they can't see their friends and maybe the usual recommendations go out the window. I'll let both of you tell me. Also, KJ, you alluded to this. Online schooling has already started for some kids here in my community. It starts in earnest next week. So after a short break, I'd love to talk to both of you about that. And we'll keep taking your comments and questions. Send them in how you're managing, coping, dealing your stories with this whole new way of being together in family due to the Corona virus. Jane, thank you for that e-mail. We welcome your e-mails, that exchange at NHP York. Well, your phone calls, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy.. Tomorrow it's the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup. So join us Friday morning live at 9:00. Today, how families are coping with many parents and kids at home. And normal life canceled for what could be a long time. Let's hear your stories. If you managing well, if you're not managing well, if your household is suddenly crowded. How are you creating structure, if at all, if you're working inside the home or outside? How is that going? Again, let us know. The Exchange number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. We also want to hear from your younger our younger listeners today. Let us know how you're managing with all this and what you want your parents to understand about how this feels for you. Again, our number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. We have two guests with us, both joining us remotely, of course. Dawn Huebner is joining us from Exeter. She's an psychologist specializing in anxiety. She's a nationally recognized author of several books for Kids on Coping with Fear and Anxiety. Dawn's latest blog post is called Talking to Children about coronavirus actual words for Actual Parents. And joining us from the Upper Valley is KJ Dell'Antonia. She's author of a parenting and writing blog. Former lead editor for The New York Times Motherlode blog. And her most recent book is How to Be a Happier Parent. And KJ, shortly before the break, we heard from your 15 year old daughter about how she is feeling. And it was really insightful, missing her friends, wanting to set her own schedule to say that she can handle it. I understand your son is now on the line with us. And good morning. Go ahead. Thank you for coming to the phone. I'm impressed that you're up.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Oh, hold on. He's I have to put my headset on him, so. OK. My head sat on him and here he comes.

Laura Knoy:
Good morning. Laura Knoy from New Hampshire Public Radio. Hear me?

Sam:
Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
Good morning. So you're 18 years old. You were supposed to be on a gap year. You had some travel planned. What happened?

Sam:
Well, I was going to visit my friend is living in Switzerland this year, but obviously I can't do that at this point. So it's a little disappointing, but it's OK.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. So you're taking a gap year before you went to college. I'm sorry, I did not get your name. I apologize.

Sam:
Oh, my name is Sam.

Laura Knoy:
Sam. OK. Well, thanks for coming to the radio, Sam. So in addition to those canceled plans, which is huge and I'm sure really disappointing, how else has this been for you?

Sam:
Well, being back home on my gap year, I was definitely hoping to do some work and I'd really wanted to work in a restaurant around town, but. I can't do that now because all the restaurants are closed. Actually, no, a lot of people like some of my friends who don't have any hours anymore at restaurants. So it's really unfortunate for them. I didn't have a job yet, but they're actually out of work. So.

Laura Knoy:
So your big trip that you planned for. No, that's out. Your hopes for a job? No, that's out. What? What's what's good in your life right now, Sam? Are you finding anything good? And if you say nothing, that's OK. You don't have to be cheerful.

Sam:
No, I definitely am. I've been gone from home for a while now, and it's it's really nice to spend some time with my younger siblings. So we spent the whole day a couple of days ago building like a big ping pong ball track through our house. We spent all day doing it. It was just fun to, you know, get back to doing things with my brother and sisters that. You know, we we actually finally have time to do because they're not in school. So it's nice.

Laura Knoy:
Right. How about your friends, Sam? What are you all talking about?

Sam:
Well, the biggest unfortunate thing I think that's happened is one of my really good friends was rowing in England. He's gonna row at Dartmouth next year, but his club just got shut down. So he had been working incredibly hard over there and now he has to come home all of his work to race in their final race, he can't do it because it's been canceled. So I've been talking to him and he has to come home. It's a little unfortunate. Everybody being home, but not really being supposed to spend too much time together, so.

Sam:
That's the other main thing.

Laura Knoy:
Right. And I had been reading a lot of articles about college students, you know, coming home for spring break and then being told to stay home and work online. And their natural instinct is, hey, I get to see all my high school friends. And the parents are saying, so, yeah. What are your biggest concerns?

Sam:
That's exactly what's happening.

Laura Knoy:
Right. Right. What are you worried about?

Sam:
I guess I am a little bit worried that people might not be taking this very seriously because I know that. The death rates are low and it might be very tempting to go out and spend time with your friends because you're young, but I don't know, we we all have older relatives and it's just scary to think that some people might not think that they should be doing anything.

Sam:
I think it's really everybody's responsibility to stay home and take care of everyone.

Laura Knoy:
I'm so glad you said that because I got a passionate email from a listener earlier this week saying please, please put that message out that, you know, yes, young people are not nearly as vulnerable, but it is a community responsibility. So I'm glad you mentioned that, Sam. What about parents? What do you want your parents or other parents to know?

Sam:
I think it's important that parents sort of realize that it might be easy for their kids to not, to not recognize the severity, because on the one hand, parents do want to not keep their kids worried, like they don't want to make their kids scared that they're going to get the virus and it's going to really hurt them. But at the same time, I think it's important that they tell their kids that it could be affecting their older relatives like grandma and grandpa.

Laura Knoy:
So I think that it's important for parents to not scare their kids, but really let them know that there's a reason that they can't spend time with their friends and that they should stay in the house.

Laura Knoy:
Or at least get out in nature and not exactly a large groups. Yeah. Yeah. Well, Sam, thank you. And I'm impressed again that you're up because a lot of teenagers are probably still sleeping. So we really appreciate you coming to the radio this morning. Thank you.

Sam:
Thanks for having me.

Laura Knoy:
Okay. And while we're waiting for KJ to get back up, Dawn, again, just some more moving testimony from another young person who's, you know, like a lot of young people, have had some major disappointments. I mean, he planned this big gap year to go to Switzerland. He was hoping to get some experience working. And it's just all canceled. Sounded like he was coping pretty well. But I just wonder what you think about the impact. What impact is that on young people? No, you can't. No, you can't. No, you can't. Our kids are hearing just a lot of no lately.

Dawn Huebner:
Yeah, it's really hard. And again, you know, we want to look to helping our children learn some life skills. And one of the skills is coping with disappointment. And in no way do we want to minimize that disappointment, but we want children to understand had of these difficulty and move forward. So I love how in almost the same breath Sam was talking about, we made this cool ping pong thing on our whole house. Right. And that's a great example of, you know, sort of finding the good and still, you know, being creative and doing something that never would have been done if we weren't in the situation that we're in right now.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Yeah, well, and it was sad to hear him say, you know, that all these older kids are home from college and they're all thinking, okay, well, it stinks that I'm home from college, but at least I can see all my buddies from high school.

Laura Knoy:
And then they're told, you know, are a lot of young people, of course, communicate, stay in touch online. How much, Dawn, do you think social media helps in these situations?

Dawn Huebner:
So we think that it it's certainly helpful in the early stages for people to be actively communicating on social media, to be kind of checking in on each other. But if it turns into just sort of ruminating or, you know, going over and over and over the the disappointments and losses and upsets, it's going to start to be not so useful. So, you know, I think that we want to use social media, both adults and children, to stay connected. But to to try once we're you know, we're we're still in sort of the immediately reacting stage to this. But as we settle into it over time, I think we want to use social media and all kinds of screens in as positive a way as possible, like to stay connected in healthy ways to like explore and learn rather than to be reinforcing the difficult parts of what we're what we're going through.

Laura Knoy:
Sure, sure. I understand what you're saying. KJ What do you think about this? There's all these recommendations for limits on screen time. But now kids can't get together. They can't see each other as much. They can't do this. They can't do that. They can't do that. They can't go here. They can't go there. I mean, should we just check those screen recommendations up the window or what? What do you think? KJ

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Well, there are great I mean, great screentime opportunities here even before this had happened. Sam, for example, has been playing Minecraft. And mind you, he's 18 years old with his buddy in Switzerland that he's not going to go see. And he says, really, it's almost like we're walking in the woods together. We'd have our final avatar. But we're really just there are they're on their headsets and they're just chatting, like Dawn said earlier. You can watch a net, you know, sort of jointly watch the same movie so that you can talk.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
There are so many games right now. You know, if fortnight, got a bad rap and fortnight's got its problems, but when they're playing, they're teaming up and they feel much the same way. I think that a lot of us growing up felt running around our neighborhood, hiding from our friends. It gives them that I've played fortnight. It's pretty fun. It gives them same feelings that there there are some great like there are some advantages to all the screens stuff that we have if we use it. Right. So helping our kids to find the ways to connect really with their friends. This way, I think there's gonna be a great thing.

Laura Knoy:
Also, some of those games where you are connecting, you're playing in a group online that may be helpful. KJ It sounds like you're saying.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
Yeah, I think so. And if it's there.... I mean maybe this is going to be a great....

KJ Dell'Antonia:
I feel like I would like to tell the creators of this movie that I feel like I've already learned the lesson that I valued my in-person contact more than the ones in my phone. But fine, we're gonna spend a lot more time learning it. I can see our kids coming out of this with yeah, yay, screen time is great, but oh my goodness. Let me go be live with my friends.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, sure. A deep appreciation for Face-To-Face.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Well, couple emails from our listeners. Mohammed in Concord says, As a parent with three children ages 5, 3 and 1, I am worried about their safety, especially during this pandemic. As a student pursuing a master's of public health, I understand the severity of the outbreak. The hardest thing for me as a parent is completing my own academic work while at the same time focusing on my son to complete his pre-school work. So there's one parent concerned about getting the academic work done. And here's another parent, Greg and Portsmith, who also has three kids. The younger two are on Google Hangout classes. One benefit, Greg says, to the online classes and videos is that the girls had to clean up their desks for the Chromebooks and their rooms since they appear in the background of their camera screens. Thank you to Greg and Mohammed for writing and KJ Now it sounds like some schools are already up and running with their online educational programs. In my community, it's not quite up and running yet, but once it is, how do you how do you advise parents? K.J to kind of, I don't know, navigate this. I mean you don't spend your whole day saying, are you doing your work? You're doing your work or doing your work. I mean I just wonder what your thoughts are.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
I don't think we should treat this that differently than we would treat their regular homework. The schools are on this. The schools are doing a fantastic job of putting this together and the schools are going to find ways to ask your kids if they're doing their work. And as much as we can. I feel like we should let the schools be the. The school work police. This is gonna be a tough enough time in our households without our becoming another source of nagging about whether or not the online work is getting done. And it's as I said earlier and as my daughter said, it can be an opportunity for them to get it to get it done themselves. And, you know, if you have a third or a fourth grader. Yeah. Are they going to struggle with this? Absolutely. But what better time to struggle with it? There is no penalty for screwing up third grade in the middle of a global pandemic. We could be a really uptight about. Yeah. And the caller who mentioned his son's preschool homework. There's no such thing as preschool homework. Now, I'll bet that preschool is doing their best to provide some really fantastic learning opportunities that that kid will enjoy and that the parents may enjoy having time to do with them.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
But if they can't, they should cut themselves some slack. Find a way to spend time with that 3 year old and that 5 year old and that baby. That's it. That brings you all together and is joyful and is not adding an additional source of stress to your already stressful life. If the 3 year old learns to read a little later, he or she is gonna be fine.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, I'm a little struck by a preschool homework, but maybe you that you get at preschool worries to put together learning parts.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
You know, they're tough. They're trying. This is you. You can't see this as homework.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
This is not something they expect your kid to do if they're trying to help you and to provide you with things that they can do together. That's their goal.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
So we just gotta look at it right. And also. Look at it in the way that works best for our family.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
If you were home, you know, if you're home from your job, if your job is one that has become suddenly less light hours and less stressful and you want to put some time into it, you know, I know I have a friend who's going to work on learning a language with her high schooler and they've come up with online ways to do it. And that's great. But that's because that friend's job has lessened. I have other friends whose jobs have suddenly become dramatically more intense.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
And, you know, they're going to spend time with their families. Yes. But that time needs to not be pressured learning time. It's going to need to be break time. And that is OK. It's more than OK. That's what you need to do.

Laura Knoy:
Last thoughts from you, Dawn, about just parental anxiety, children's anxiety and how to manage it.

Dawn Huebner:
Yeah, I agree with what KJ is saying about, you know, we need to let go of the things that aren't necessary or productive for us. And I think that there is a wealth of information out there about positive ways to use screens to go back to that.

Dawn Huebner:
You know, people can find yoga online. People can find how to draw or cartoon online. And and once parents calm down a little more, they can be finding those opportunities and kind of using them well with their kids and enjoying this time eventually.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Dawn, it's always good to talk to you. We really appreciate you being with us today. Thank you. Thank you for having me. That's Dawn Heaver, Exeter psychologist, specializing in anxiety. She's a nationally recognized author of several books for Kids on Coping with Fear and Anxiety. And her latest blog post is called Talking to Children about Coronavirus Actual Words for Actual Parents. KJ Dell'Antonia, always a pleasure having you. And thank you for sharing your children with us today. We really appreciate it.

KJ Dell'Antonia:
They enjoyed it. It was great. I think they're going to want you to do an all time show and they'll get all their friends.

Laura Knoy:
That sounds great, actually. That sounds great. We'll be in touch with you about that for now. KJ, thank you very much. Thank you. And you're listening to The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.