Stop worrying about screen time and use it as a tool if you can to get through self isolation with kids, a well-known New Zealand psychologist has told Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a live Facebook conversation.
The psychologist, author and television host Nigel Latta, appeared on Ardern’s lockdown series, ‘Conversations on COVID-19’ to share with the PM “tips and tricks for looking after yourself while staying home to save lives.”
New Zealand is currently in the midst of a large-scale lockdown in its bid to eliminate coronavirus from the country. Ardern has been regularly ‘checking in’ on New Zealanders, and providing live chats and other content to those following on from home.
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Overall, Latta’s advice for managing young kids at home, at this time, was to try and keep the house calm — and if that means screen time and going easy on attempts at getting the school work completed, then so be it.
He said parents of teenagers can expect them to be “grumpy and unhappy” during lockdown. “If they just want to retreat to their rooms for four weeks and you see them at the end, that’s ok. Let them do it,” he said.
He noted that it’s particularly hard for teenagers, given the urge to have contact with their friends. As such, he said access to devices and the internet will help.
“I think people worry a lot about young people and devices, but don’t. Having access to the internet and having access to devices and talking on all the various platforms that they do and snapchatting each other, and doing all that kind of stuff, is hugely important,” he said.
And if they want to sleep in, so be it — it’s for a limited period and a few weeks won’t hurt.
“I always think the people with little kids, who are still getting up at 5 O’clock in the morning, are going to listen to people with teenagers complaining about them getting up at lunchtime, and they’ll be thinking, ‘just shut up, that sounds amazing!’.”
Ardern said Latta’s comments about screen-time may surprise people, given many see screens as a negative.
“If it’s over the period of a few weeks, it’s not going to do them any harm,” he said. “Screen time, it’s useful, don’t feel bad about it, it’s fine.”
Meanwhile, how do you talk to children about what’s going on right now?
Latta recommended avoiding having the news on all the time. He suggested shielding little kids from the news, but noted that might be impossible with teenagers given they’ll find out anyway — so be open to having calm conversations about what’s going on.
And what about trying to get kids to complete school work?
Latta said it’s not worth having big conflicts over it.
“It’s great that teachers have put resources in places and there are some kids that will love that, but I know that there are parents who are getting into conflict with their kids because they feel like their kids should do this stuff, and they’re somehow failing them if they’re not.”
“Nothing is going to happen to your kids if they decide not to do school work.”
Ardern also asked Latta’s advice for sole parents, a group she said she’s being thinking a lot about during lockdown.
He conceded this period is particularly hard on sole parents and added that they should do what they need to do to get through, again noting that screen time may be necessary.
He added that with older children, negotiation might help and talking with them about how you can all work together to make lockdown as easy as possible on each other.
Ardern’s video has had more than 1.5 million views on Facebook and thousands more again on other channels. Impressive, given New Zealand’s population of around five million.