By Jonny Lupsha, Current Events Writer
Coronavirus cases are declining, so what will that mean for child care? Following the pandemic, new parents face an unprecedented child-raising situation. An M.D. from Emory University shared his thoughts.
The novel coronavirus pandemic disrupted the daily lives of most people on the planet, and children were no exception. While students began distance learning for school, parents of very young children scrambled to put together a plan to balance work and child-rearing responsibilities. As cliché as it may sound, the world did start from square one. We had to rethink everything we knew; we learned as we went; and we practiced some trial-and-error approaches.
Since early February 2021, the number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has been shrinking. The statistics site Worldometers reported over 305,000 new cases on January 8 as compared to just 12,281 on June 7. Parents have new questions. Pediatrician and author Roy Benaroch, M.D., Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine, has answers.
Ways to Get Back to Normal-ish
One of the biggest adjustments in the medical field in 2020, pediatrics or otherwise, was shifting to virtual doctor visits and masked in-person visits. Dr. Benaroch said that going back won’t be easy either.
“The biggest change is going to be getting kids back to normal, getting them back in school [and] feeling comfortable getting in social situations and playing with their friends, and going to their friends’ houses where kids get together,” he said. “Many kids got out of the habit of going to school, depending on where you live; many schools were entirely virtual and [there were] a lot of pros and cons [to] that.”
While controlling the spread of COVID-19 and keeping kids healthy were clear upshots of having school online, some children didn’t do well in a virtual classroom environment. Many students learn better in a hands-on learning environment, with a teacher in-person. And some students simply didn’t have access to Wi-Fi and their school learning suffered.
Dr. Benaroch added that the evidence he has seen leads him to believe that getting back to in-person schooling this fall is safe and the right thing to do, as long as COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward. At the same time, students will have to readjust—again—to in-person social interactions, and some will have to spend time catching up on subjects they fell behind in.
Additionally, according to Dr. Benaroch, new parents will likely be more anxious about placing small children into daycare in a post-pandemic world. This has lead many parents to seek alternatives like smaller daycares, groups of parents who co-op neighborhood mini-daycares for kids of similar ages, and so on. However, daycare centers never emerged as a major spreader of COVID-19. Children in daycare have always had more frequent rates of common viruses, but not COVID-19.
So both returning to school in-person this fall—additional COVID-19 waves notwithstanding—and daycare should be fine. Parents just need to help their school-aged kids readjust and catch up when needed.
The Ultimate Baby Book for New Dads
In addition to being on the faculty at Emory University and working in a private practice, Dr. Benaroch is an author and a father of three children, all of whom are now grown. His new book, The Ultimate Baby Book for New Dads, covers 100 different child care tips for first-time fathers.
“I don’t want to come across as overly critical, but the books that one might compare that are also written for dads, to me [they] come across as quite condescending,” he said. “They start with the premise that dads are idiots and cavemen and are just gonna bumble around and put the kid’s diaper on his head and just, ‘Haha, dads are idiots.’
“Dads might not be as experienced; just because of the culture we’re in, I think fewer dads have experienced babysitting, but they can do it—they really can be a big part of the team.”
Dr. Benaroch added that the book is meant to be read essentially as the family is raising the baby. So chapters are short and to the point while teaching new fathers to be confident and have fun. The book is very “partner-centric” and frequently emphasizes parents being a team—one section of the book even advises new parents on how they can keep their intimacy alive while their children are still small.
Other topics include choosing a daycare, nutritional ideas, and crafting emergency diapers. “That comes from personal experience; I sacrificed a shirt and it worked,” he said, with a laugh.
“Fathers can and should be a valuable part of the team; they’re there to help raise children but also [to] be a romantic and supportive partner themselves for the person they love,” he said. “Parenting can be tiring—there are quite a few pages on sleeping because that’s so crucial—but it can be a lot of fun, too. I’ve helped a lot of families and a lot of dads and moms raise kids; and looking back, none of us ever say ‘I wish my kids grew up faster.'”
The Ultimate Baby Book for New Dads is available through Rockridge Press on June 22.