Khalil Trabelsi

Khalil Trabelsi

Community Manager and Producer of Happiness

How To Raise A Child In A Digital (and Coronavirus) Era?

I work 2 jobs like almost every parent. A full-time Community Manager for a great media company and part-time father of two kids. And I’ve never expected to deal with such a complicated mission… Much more complicated than the full-time one! Which is being a parent.

I don’t have any problem to change diapers or play with my kids even when I’m extremely tired and just want to lay down on the sofa, the problem is when my smartphone becomes the predominant method to keep my kid calm and away from me and want him to stop crying to continue that online meeting with my colleagues and managers (if you’re like me working remotely in those hard times) And I know what you’re thinking about… Ban them completely? if you decide to be the super radical parent and ban those technologies from your child… It’s riskier than you think… Because the more walls you build, the more you’re just creating little thirsty hackers trying to get around the fence.

Scientists have warned that Two or more hours of screen time a day could lead to behavioral and attention problems and the more the child is glued to the tablet the poorer is the progress on his/her communication skills, problem-solving and social interaction over time. 

We all know or heard about the risks of letting children be exposed to tech devices. But the real problem is not the child’s addiction. The real problem is us (Parents)! 

How can you imagine your kid’s behavior if he/she is seeing you spending too much time on your screen? After only one week of confinement because of the coronavirus, I would say that working from home with kids is not easy at all, I’m physically present but emotionally absent! Sticking to my laptop for 8 hours and maybe more sometimes, I can barely steal little breaks to move around, stretch, and play with my kids. 

In a study, researchers surveyed more than 6000 children, aged 8 to 13, from different countries and cultures and found that nearly 1/3 of children felt unimportant when their parents were distracted by their phones. My elder son is almost 3 years now and understands quite a lot of things, after reading about this survey, I was constantly thinking if I did emotionally hurt him. I have to say that I’m a bit of an addict to my phone and try as much as possible to ditch it especially when I’m with my family, but when you’re working for a digital news organization, you HAVE to be always connected to follow what’s happening in the world! 

Take it easy with yourself.. You won’t be productive at home!

This is not a negative message but a realistic point of view and working parents with kids at home will be empathetic. Basically I have two choices: either I give my child that magical tool called technology and assume its dangers to focus at work or minimize my working time and give priority to my kids. I wanted to know if there is a way to keep my kids amused (without technology) but at the same time accomplish my daily tasks and progress at work, so I’ve talked to Khalil Melaouhia, a psychologist and member of Ahkili, the first psycho-social helpline platform in Tunisia and Africa, who told me that the first thing we’re talking to parents about is keeping in mind that this is a special situation and it needs a special behavior which implies more patience, and without putting yourself in a pressure to be at your normal level of productivity like you would do normally at the office. 

For Khalil Melaouhia, kids should not be exposed to screens until the age of 5! This is the best-case scenario of course but it’s hard to stick to it. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children need to sit less and play more to grow up healthy

Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and well-being, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life” says Dr. Fiona Bull, programme manager for surveillance and population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases, at WHO.

That being said, those guidelines are probably non-applicable since kids are unfortunately imprisoned and the entire world is on lockdown because of Covid-19. So let’s be honest, kids will get more screen time those days and we hope that the situation doesn’t get worse. An extra 45 minutes of Masha and the Bear, while you’re finishing a very urgent task, is not the end of the world. 

I’ve had a great talk as well with Ines Baccouche, CEO, and founder of ArtForNess, and mother of 2 kids who decided to build her own startup company and work from home even before this pandemic spread out and compels nations to be in confinement. I’ve needed in this research someone experienced who could give me tips for working from home with kids and how to ease the burden for this unprecedented situation. 

I really appreciated the way Ines values books and how important reading is for her kids. And I would like to insist more here about the importance of reading by giving an astonishing fact:  

Young children whose parents read them 5 books will hear about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a study shows, the researchers said: “This will enrich their vocabulary and make them well prepared when they enter school”. 

5 tips for working from home parents (that MIGHT work for you)! 

Most of us (parents) have been working remotely since the previous month or maybe more and I think we almost found our balance now handling 2 full-time jobs. If you still can’t find yours, don’t be frustrated, you will. It’s just a matter of time. Here are some tips that I found on some trusted sources that I’ve tested and been effective: 

You might need to adjust your working schedule and talk to your boss (or your colleagues) about the challenges that you’re facing at home. Personally, I found my balance and felt that I’m more productive when working very early in the morning. 

Set a schedule for your kids and think about how a preschool structures a day, you can even call them if they’re available to give you some tips. It’s impossible to set a schedule for an infant or a toddler (up to 2 years) but you can do it for kids above that age. 

Naptime is your golden time! When your kids are napping for an hour, or maybe 2 or 3 hours, this is your time to focus at work and do your best. I LOVE nap times! 

Split your babysitting time with your partner: if your partner works from home as well, and if you don’t have additional support since they’ve given caregivers time off, cooperation, love and patience are the qualities required for this situation to get things done.

A “Me time” is also essential for your mental health, talk to your partner and let him/her know that you need 30-45 minutes of solitude to practice some sport, meditation, read a book or even do NOTHING… Just to relax. 

If you have more useful tips, let me know in the comments section.

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