Will days of video games melt my kid’s brain? Questions about parenting and working from home — answered

Posted on March 18, 2020 | Sarah Smellie | 0 Comments

What sound did you make when you saw school was cancelled in your area? I emitted a long wail of “NOOOOOOOOO!” and then lay down on the floor for a few whispered “No, no, please no”s.

I know it’s necessary to shut down schools and I truly don’t object, but having just spent a week trying to work from home while parenting my ten-year-old during the State of Emergency in St. John’s, I am not looking forward to doing it again. The days became amorphous blobs of snack requests, video games, fights over video games and, at night, guilt over how much time was spent playing/fighting over video games.

I can’t do that again. So I phoned St. John’s-based child psychologist Janine Hubbard to get some advice.

Here’s what she said.

The good news: your kid’s brain will not physically melt, Hybbard says. That’s not a thing that happens. She also says that, yes, of course there is going to be extra video game time as we all scramble to get work done from home.

In some cases, depending on what they’re playing, video games are ways for kids to have social contact in this time of social distancing. My son plays Fortnite with a lot of his friends from school. That totally counts as quality human contact in a time of social distancing, she says.

The bad(ish) news: “You do need to set some limits,” she says.

And yes, if you switch off the PlayStation, that means you’re now on tap to provide the entertainment and steer the activities. But Hubbard says those activities don’t have to be too intense. Those detailed hour-by-hour educational plans going around Twitter? That’s not necessary, nor is it realistic when you’re trying to work, too.

Keep it simple, Hubbard says. Set aside quiet time for reading, some time for physical activity and some time for chores, she says. A few suggestions for the latter: have them try on all their clothes and set aside those that no longer fit, or have them make sense of their toy shelves.

If your kids are old enough, they can do this on their own while you hit that deadline.


Hubbard also suggests looking at this time as an opportunity. “This is the time for kids to work on developing new skills,” she says.

Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated. If your kids are old enough, she suggests setting them up to bake something or to make a family meal. Or having them head outside with a camera to take a picture of all the birds or trees they see so they can look them up and learn about them when they come back home.

“That’s natural learning,” she says.

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And when you do get your work done, Hubbard suggests cozying up with your kids and making the most of this time — even thinking of it kind of like time away at the cabin, she says.

“I’m a big fan of pulling out the board games, or pulling out a puzzle,” she says.

Looking for more suggestions? Atlantic Business Magazine contributor Terri Coles put together this list of online resources in her newsletter, All The Things.

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