Best of Both Worlds podcast: Dr. Kelly Fradin on parenting in a pandemic

All the news comes back to Covid some way or another. It can be really hard to find factual, straightforward information that isn’t designed to draw clicks. Emily Oster (a past podcast guest!) has built a useful database of school information, and sends out a newsletter. Sarah and I read Dr. Kelly Fradin’s essay in that newsletter on how parents should be thinking through issues these days, and we knew we’d love to have her as a guest on Best of Both Worlds as well.

Fradin is a pediatrician in New York City with a public health background. She offered us her thoughts on the current research about kids and Covid. She discussed what she feels comfortable doing with her family, and shared her perspective on risk. In short, the human brain is primed to focus on new threats (such as Covid) and tends to downplay the risk level of existing threats (such as RSV or influenza) and the secondary threats that happen because of the focus on the new threat (such as the mental health crisis young people are facing). This was a really thought-provoking episode, so please give it a lesson, and then check out Fradin’s new book, Parenting in a Pandemic.

In the Q&A section, we discuss a listener’s struggle to deal with her planning nature given the realities of a new baby. Babies are challenging, and we encourage the listener to move beyond all-or-nothing thinking as she adjusts to parenthood.

6 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Dr. Kelly Fradin on parenting in a pandemic

  1. I agree completely about risk/benefit evaluation, and how it is going to be different for each family. I still don’t feel comfortable taking our kids to playgrounds… Considering how much our kids stick their fingers into their mouths (and their siblings’ mouths), their eyeballs (and their siblings’ eyeballs), it seems like a recipe for disaster. No idea how schools and daycares sanitize their outdoor play equipment – but my guess is, not at all.

    Laura and Dr. Fradin – it sounds like you feel comfortable with certain risks (ie, playdates, outside sports). What are precautions do you usually take – everybody masked outside? How do you enforce kids keeping at least 6 ft apart? I have a very hard time getting my kids to STAY AWAY from their friends. Hence, we try to not have playdates (because even outside, it seems almost impossible to keep kids away from each other, especially when they are having fun).

    Also, if there is a potential exposure to COVID at school or daycare – do you plan to isolate kids from siblings? Do you plan to minimize hugs/kisses/cuddles with parents? It does appear that kids tend to have mild symptoms… but many adults have more severe illness (even if it doesn’t require hospitalization). Are you concerned about your no-symptom kids infecting you and other adult family members?

    It makes perfect sense that we need to balance out the potential risks from COVID to effects of long-term isolation on psychological well-being. There is one thing that’s left out of the conversation: the stress that happens when you send kids to school and than wonder, daily: were they exposed? are the current cold symptoms COVID or just a cold? Also, what about the older generation – if the kids go to school or play sports, I would not feel comfortable taking our family to visit grandparents or great-grandparents (in their 90’s!). But that means that the elderly are lonely and isolated and we all miss them.

  2. I just bought her book over the weekend – it was only $2-3 on amazon (ebook) and I felt like I needed the sections on having a newborn in a pandemic/visiting policies/etc, especially since I have covid doubters in my immediate family. 🙁

    We have been making similar decisions to what Dr. Fradin is doing. Our son (2.5) has been back in daycare since late April and that has gone great. Once playgrounds re-opened for ‘play at your own risk’ we started going there too, especially once the science showed you are more likely to get it through droplets in the air versus on surfaces. I just make sure he keeps his distance from other kids and wipe his hands throughout. I’m high risk due to being on immune suppressant drugs and pregnant so we had to put a lot of thought into all the decisions we made. We also do outdoor play dates w/ 2 daycare families since we are in the same immunity bubbles, and we know the families are being very careful. In general, I feel like most of the people we interact with have the same views on covid as we do and are taking the right precautions. I struggle when I have to talk about covid w/ non-believers, though, or get treated like I’m being so over the top w/ the precautions we are taking. I do dread the winter months when it’s bitterly cold here in Minnesota… I’m just hoping and praying for a mild winter so one of us can be outdoors w/ our toddler – otherwise we will all lose our minds if we are cooped up indoors together!

  3. I loved Dr. Fradin’s thoughtful and measured take on parenting during Covid. I live just north of NYC and work as a physician in NYC. We have been venturing out carefully for awhile. I think it helps that those around us are feeling similarly cautious. There is a strong community goal of keeping our school open safely for in-person learning fulltime (Just about 4 weeks in things have been going well). I think having this goal in common and having clear guidelines from our school board regarding safety measures has helped. There is a sense we are all in this together (even as we head off to get our kiddos testing for covid as colds start to circulate).

    One of our most successful for playdate ideas for school-aged kids has been inviting our children’s friends for biking playdates. They are occupied outside and on bikes they can only get so close together. Plus it is really fun to see what games they manage to think up, all involving riding their bikes.

  4. A belated comment to say how I appreciated your honesty, Laura, in this episode (I think it was this episode!) about dropping balls and your openness recently about the challenges that come (sleep deprivation, etc.) with having a baby.

    I remember first tuning into this podcast soon after I had my first baby and thinking you and Sarah seemed to have it so figured out and together- and you DO, but it is also affirming to us mere mortals to be reminded of your humanity, too. 🙂 It reminds us of what we can accomplish even when things are difficult to manage and there is a lot on our plates.

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