Dr. Jason Kessler, section chief, infectious disease, Morristown Medical Center has the perspective of both a doctor and a father of two young children. Even though this year has been a challenging one, Dr. Kessler sees many life lessons that came out of it. Here he shares his insights on how to parent during the pandemic and how to stay safe and hopeful!
Dr. Kessler says that COVID-19 has taught him the profound importance of making healthy choices.
“The importance of healthful choices as they relate to lifestyle, diet, sleep hygiene and mental wellbeing have substantial effects on so many aspects of our susceptibility to illness and disease,” he says. “Not only the issues we know about and have heard about for many years such as heart disease and cancer but issues we could not have anticipated such as COVID-19.”
Talking to Kids about COVID
As a father of two, Dr. Kessler knows there is no one right way to talk to children about the virus.
“I always use language and content that’s appropriate for the age of my kids,” he says. “Obviously, a teenager or young adult can process and understand much more about COVID-19 and its risks and dangers than a much younger child. At the same time, I try to be as honest with them as I can and always encourage them to come to me with any questions that they may have.”
While it’s not always easy to find the positive in such a challenging situation, Dr. Kessler advises us to keep gratitude in mind.
“If there’s a silver lining, I suppose it has been gaining an appreciation on how thankful we should be every day for our own health and wellbeing and that of our family and friends,” he says. “Any of that could change suddenly and without warning.”
Kids and Resilience
Dr. Kessler says that when it comes to the long-term consequences of this unusual time on kids, there is every reason to be hopeful.
“I think most children especially younger ones will come out of this without much long-term impact,” he says. “They may remember that year they didn’t go to school or didn’t get to do very much with their friends but they’re resilient. Older children and young adults I think will be more profoundly affected as the impacts of the pandemic may be more direct in their experience – things such as loss of close social networks, loss of college experiences, in some cases economic impacts (job loss, loss of other opportunities) – all could contribute to detrimental effects on their emotional and psychological wellbeing.”
Dr. Kessler says he believes that the experiences of the last year will impact behaviors and lifestyle choices for people throughout the country and the world for many years into the future.
“I believe it will be an extended period before life resumes as we once knew it even when vaccines become more widely available,” says Dr. Kessler. “We will be utilizing masks, limiting public gatherings and social distancing for some time to come.”
Resisting Pandemic Fatigue
“When available I encourage everyone including parents to get vaccinated,” he says. “If you are hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine discuss it with your doctor or health care provider – they may be able to alleviate your concerns.”
He urges parents to fight fatigue and continue to practice the public health measures that we know work to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
“Your kids need you healthy and happy,” he says.