Screentime vs Facetime, Authentic Parents, Anxious Children, Boundaries around Handwashing – A RIE Chat Summary

(Beginning in mid-March 2020, when the world shut down, I began a bi-weekly conversation with the parents who had been in my RIE classes. Since not every family could make it to these conversations, but each conversation touched on important elements, I would often write up a summary of the conversation. What follows is one of those summaries.)

Last night, I had a small, but impactful zoom meeting with parents. And I’m hearing some familiar echoes of conversations I’ve had over the last week.

  • Screentime vs Facetime
    • Let’s talk first about facetime. For children under three, I highly recommend that you structure facetime to be predominately from a kind of ‘birds eye view’ of the child. That is to say, let the person who wishes to connect with your child have a window into their world where they can play freely without having to check in directly, face to face, in conversation. If you think back to some of your early memories of being on a phone call with Grandma or Auntie, do you remember how awkward those calls were? How you couldn’t wait to get off and go play? Well, your toddlers are that to the Nth degree. At most, hope for a few moments of looking into the camera to see the other person’s face and hear their voice. Here’s the thing: it’s still a deep impact…to a person, each parent tells me that their child references the video chat and the person later in the day.
  • For slightly older children that have zoom meetings for preschool or school, I’m going to be a bit of a radical here and say if your child is having a negative experience with them, be an advocate for them and turn them off. Personally, I did a zoom meeting with 8 of my best friends last week and it was CHAOTIC and challenging and not as much fun as we’d hoped. One-on-one or very small zoom meetings for young children are infinitely more useful and impactful.
  • Screentime has become a reality for many families who would otherwise eschew it, and I get that. Remember that you still have the power over the screen, though…you can reduce or eliminate it at any time (though it is challenging). One thing I recommend is covering your screen (TV, monitor) with a blanket…sending a visual reminder that the screen is off and not available. You can do similar with smaller devices by putting them into a drawer to ‘rest’.
  • We also talked about how this can be an opportunity for toilet learning, since you are all home together…but recognize the importance of it still being a child led experience… Susanna said it’s the difference between toilet learning (child led) and toilet training (parent led). Look to your child to give you clues that he or she is ready, make it available and accessible, and see what unfolds
  • We also talked about inadvertently, but oh so authentically, expressing anxiety to our children…and the worry that we may be raising anxious children in the process. I encourage you to come to your children with the same attitude you have when you snap and get angry…connect and repair. Acknowledge your outburst, use simple language to explain your fear…then talk about what you are doing to alleviate or mitigate that fear. Hopefully, this conversation with your child will also lead to calming you.
  • I forgot to mention an important thing here… one parent talked about her worry that she is going to raise an overly anxious child. I talked about how this is temporary and we can mitigate as the crisis comes to a close, but yes, some things will be forever changed in all of us after this…however I FORGOT to mention something new I learned…do you remember hearing stories of WWII, where some parents sent their children away, to live with relatives until the war was over, to keep them safe? Of course, other parents didn’t have the option or chose not to…as it turns out, the children who stayed with their parents…through blackouts and bombings, through scarcity and fear…ended up with less anxiety than those children who were sent away. So remember that, when you worry that you are creating anxious children. <3
  • Last, but not least…we talked about how some children are boycotting handwashing! Oh my! Just like with getting into a carseat or getting a diaper changed, this is an important limit that we must follow to keep children safe. Yes, you can use handwipes or spray, but we know that handwashing is best. I recommend:
    • Telling your child the plan before you even leave the house…we are going to go out for a walk. When we get home, we will take our shoes off, walk to the bathroom and wash hands.
    • Remind them again as you approach the house…remember the plan? We’re almost home…it will be time to take off our shoes, go to the bathroom and wash hands. After that we will _____________.
    • If you can find foaming handsoap, I have found that children enjoy that…you might even offer a choice of soaps for them.
    • Lastly, you might try adding a bit of marker to their hands and making it their job to scrub until it is gone.
      • Anyone else have some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear

Our next call is Saturday morning…keep an eye out for the invitation…and remember, I’m available for video consultations, too!