Distance Learning: Good for WHO?

If you visit njvu.org and type in top-10-advantages-and-benefits-of-distance-learning you’ll readily witness that New Jersey promotes online learning for college. However, what if you’re a kindergarten student having graduated from a stimulating preschool filled with blocks and activities to now be shown thanks to COVID your next year long education experience: A computer screen. (see side New Yorker image).

The Academy of American Pediatrics is clear that anymore than 2 hours of ‘on screen’ time can be detrimental to kids, and encourage total ‘turn off’ to learning if they are forced more screen time. Experts suggest screen time for kids leads to obesity, moods swings, even speech delays. In the end, it would appear that if all you exercise is eye and hand movement, other areas of development will falter.

Recently, a colleague and I were asked to ‘weigh in’ on ‘virtual’ as a replacement for ‘brick and mortar’ learning for an elementary age youth — you would think an opinion would be a no brainer.

However, when you add COVID-19 to the mix with a school board that amends regularly the rules and regulations in the face of changes in politics and strategy, you have an interesting conundrum — if the opinion is to return to school, how do you keep kids safe in a brick and mortar school to keep it as safe as a ‘virtual’ experience. The AAP provides guidelines as well as does the Association of School Superintendents in keeping kids within small groupings within ‘bubbles’ or ‘pods’ of learners. What other safeties need to be in place? Are you concerned as parents in what the immediate (and long term) future holds in education?

I have my opinion, and I’m interested in hearing yours in the comment section below.

Pandemics & Protests with Kids: Normalized Conversation

Practice Social Distancing!

Obviously on all of our minds first is our family. We provide a roof over their shelter, meals, and any and everything else that comes to mind. However, the one thing we sometimes forget is that one conversation.

Discussing the concepts of pandemic & protests is difficult, at best. What words are correct, and which should be avoided. Here’s a few rules:

1) Don’t speak ‘above’ their age of development. Talk in terms they understand without inferring things they can’t control. Think the story of Little Red Riding Hood (aka “Red”). Obviously, what needed to be avoided there was the wolf. Suitable for children, the representation of the wolf as a ‘bad’ character is easy enough, and if we put our words in more of a ‘story line’ it helps younger children to get it. Actually it helps adults too. We like stories, don’t we?

2) Keep the conversation fun, yet instructional in content — not detrimental. Talk about what Red could do to avoid the wolf — make it a game. That’s what we do as adults in doing our taxes via TurboTax — we make it a game (ala, Star Wars!) we play on the computer and pray at the end, the computer and our psychic don’t simultaneously ‘crash’.

3) Check in with your kids to hear what their thinking, and hearing from friends and media. Don’t criticize– you’ve asking them, their not asking you what YOU think. Or if they are, then they are asking for reassurance, and that’s a GOOD thing.

At the end of the day, these are life lessons we’re having to all learn and then teach to each other. It’s not easy ‘being the adult’ and it’s not easy ‘being a kid’ during these times. But we know, life’s circumstances change. Stay open to it.

the New Normal: Really?

Community behaviors are under attack to discourage people from flying in airplanes, encourage internet vs actual transport, commuting, and etc. The question to ask ourselves: Is embracing this “new normal” of no social contact one that you want to encourage and be a part. True, you and I may find we have limited choices in some of these matters, but not all. Safely socially engaging has always been the rule.

Here’s some interesting ways perhaps of getting ahead of the 8 ball (hopefully pool tables will still be in existence). Talk frankly with your children in addressing this notion of ‘safe vs. unsafe’ and what is important in social approximation (vs. social distancing) a term that I prefer, and model it yourselves. Modeling is in fact one of the most important psychological principles and why both home-based and out-of-home based programs work. Where there is good modeling there is healthy behavior.

Residential and Outdoor programs are practicing ‘safe distancing’ and ensuring secure settings away from threat of CV 19. I am attending virtual webcasts on the topic myself to ensure I understand the measures in place. Health is not something to sidestep — it needs to be met head on. Programs are open and implementing social distancing and mental health supports. We’re here to help to educate and move your family forward.

Companionship is important against any community based health issue!

3 campers on a trek

It’s naive to think there isn’t the limited chance of corona virus or other infectious disease appearing in the great outdoors — however, one predicts it’s far below in possibility of infecting large groups of people since there are no large groups of people. At least not in wilderness treatment programs. It’s the same small groups (6-8) with the same staff and the same therapist.

nothing more important than keeping loved ones safe

In my work, I monitor clients in programs as I would my own: asking the right questions of programs around health & safety, and finding solutions as a team with staff as things come up. To Dr B keeping your family safe in any setting is most important, so we all sleep well at night.

Treatment programs and avoiding disappointing outcomes…

I’m your Expert

A potential big heartache for any family choosing to use a welcoming treatment program is disappointing outcomes. That said does it need to be, or are disappointing outcomes avoidable?

ANSWER : Mistakes are avoidable. The #1 reason for failure happens when parents ‘go it alone’ and take the word of the facility, don’t ask the right questions of the admissions team, and decide ‘on the spot’ that this is the ‘best’ option for their child, teen, or young adult.

CONCLUSION: Use a dual LICENSED educational psychologist and licensed psychologist, familiar with the various treatment and education facilities, one who is EXPERIENCED / TRAINED in both assessment and program placement.

ADVICE: Take guess work out from the equation : Hire the best! 

Dr Mark Burdick