Dear Dr. Debbie,
I am so exhausted from supporting my six-year-old through this school year. She’s a high energy child and just doesn’t have the patience for on-line school. Now that school is about over, should I try to repair her relationship with the computer or give her a break from it as long as possible so she can spend her time doing things she’d rather do?
Even though she’ll likely not be doing school from home this fall, I know from my older children that some computer use will be required for homework.
The Computer is Your Friend
It has indeed been a trying year for teachers and students – one that students, teachers, administrators, and parents, hope to never see the likes of again. A welcome break is due to all who have suffered through it.
It’s reasonable to react with frustration to connectivity glitches with live online meetings, however if you’re a child, and if you’ve lost connections with friends for the past fifteen months, along with other bizarre challenges in daily living, it’s reasonable to have a meltdown. One of the most important unmet needs of children through the pandemic has been lost play time with friends.
If carefully monitored, outdoor visits can be safe even though children younger than twelve are not yet vaccinated. (Studies are underway with an expectation of September or October for availability of vaccinations for all young children ) The downward trend of positive cases of the virus, along with the reduction in hospitalizations and deaths, will continue as long as everyone ages twelve and up complies with getting their shots. Total immunity cannot be guaranteed, however vaccinations reduce the severity of a person’s illness. The more adults there are who get fully vaccinated, the less chance there is that unvaccinated children will get sick with Covid-19.
If you or the parents of your children’s friends are still unsure about in-person play dates, try to help the disconnected buddies use the telephone, Facetime, or other means of being “together” as often as possible.
Definitely help your six-year-old find enjoyment and creative expression with activities that don’t involve the computer. While age six is known for mood swings in “normal” times, dancing, art, singing, doll play, play dough play, and other open-ended activities can be a deterrent for emotional blow ups.
User Friendly Uses
Back to the computer. Yes, I’d leave it alone for a while. A few weeks into the summer there may come an opportunity to include your six-year-old as you look something up, make a purchase, file a digital photo for her, or communicate by email with someone. Avoid the uses that frustrated her, such as live video connections that may suddenly disconnect, as you demonstrate how the computer is an everyday tool that can be very useful.
As the new school year approaches, find out how computers will be expected to be used at home, as well as in the classroom. Then you can gradually add brief rehearsals of these uses towards summer’s end with your daughter and be ready for side-by-side assistance once school resumes. Many teachers recognize the struggle their students have endured with their school-issued chrome books and other at-home devices during the pandemic and will embrace computer-less activities when they finally can.
The pandemic isn’t over yet, but things are looking up.
Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum. See the website for Zoom workshops for Girl Scouts and outdoor activities for families at the museum’s park.
CCM is facilitating children’s activities for the Juneteenth Celebration in Annapolis Saturday, June 19, 2-7 pm, at Weems-Whelan Athletic Fields on Spa Road.
Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.