Hi, this is Jen from Grace for Single Parents where your parenting and God’s grace collide. Today on the podcast I have Dr. Variste and she’s going to talk to us today about everything with the current climate and helping us find a pediatrician if you’re trying to find one right now in the middle of covid 19. And also what we should and should not tell our children in how we approach the subject with them. So welcome, Dr. Variste.
Dr. Variste (00:44):
Thank you so much. I’m so honored to be on the show.
So could you take a minute and just introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your practice and where you’re located?
Dr. Variste (00:53):
Sure. So my name is Dr Jennifer Variste. I am a practicing pediatrician. I currently practice at family first pediatrics in spring, Texas, which is a suburb right outside of Houston.
Great. If we could start off with, if we, if someone is out there looking for a pediatrician in the current situation, what are some Tips that you have for someone?
Dr. Variste (01:22):
So my heart goes out to all the moms because it’s, there’s so many unknowns and uncertainties right now. And especially if you’re a first time mom, like all of the anxiety that you would have already had may be amplified now because a lot of plans that you may have had in place aren’t really applicable right now. You’re not able to implement them the same way. And so I wanted to, yes, talk a little bit about how to go about finding a pediatrician in this current climate. The first thing I recommend doing is a prenatal visit. So you want to kind of do some research before the baby gets here, whenever that way you’re in a low pressure environment and you know, you’re not pressured to make a decision right away. When you do have the baby at the hospital, they’re going to be asking you who your pediatrician.
Dr. Variste (02:22):
So the hospital just kind of assumed that you made this decision already. And so one way to do that in this current climate when a lot of officers are offering tele-medicine options is to have that prenatal medicine prenatal visit done virtually. You don’t have to go to the office, you don’t have to go inside. This could be like a virtual visit. Some offices do audio only. Our office family first pediatrics is doing audio and video prenatal visits where you can meet the doctor. And it’s another reason why it’s important to do that is because you really want to try to figure out if this is someone that you can trust and that you can develop a rapport with because the way I see it finding a good pediatrician is like finding an expert best friend. This is someone that you are going to hopefully be creating a longterm partnership with and you’re going to have to trust the person because you’re going to be sharing intimate details with the person in an effort to like partner and team up to make the best medical decisions for your child.
Dr. Variste (03:39):
Now we know that pediatricians are the experts when it comes to child health. There are a lot of other pediatric providers out there, but pediatricians are the ones that spend the most hours after, like they take, they go through medical school and then at least three years of residency and then they take an exam, a board certifying exam that basically proves to the whole world they know what they’re doing. So if you really want an expert, you can’t get much more specialized in the general pediatrician and when it comes to pediatrics. And so yeah, that those are my tips on how to go about finding a good pediatrician in this current climate.
Okay. Excellent. I had no idea that, that you could do video calls now.
Dr. Variste (04:32):
Yes. So yeah, a lot of our office is, I’m offering that as an option. The video, a prenatal visit.
Wow. Okay, great. All right, so shifting gears a little bit for those of us that do have children now can you give us some tips about how to talk to them about Covid 19 and how much information to share with them and those kinds of things?
Dr. Variste (04:58):
Absolutely. So the first thing is you want to prepare yourself to, to have this conversation with your child. So that means that as an adult, if you have anxiety, you want to address it first before you’re talking to your child. Because the goal and having the conversation with the child is to reassure them and empower them and give them, return to them a sense of comfort and stability that they may not have had before you have the conversation with them. So first, before you initiate the conversation with your child, have a conversation with yourself as an adult and address it, your anxiety in a very safe, an effective way.
Dr. Variste (05:46):
And then you want to ask your child what they’ve heard, what are their thoughts about it, if they have any questions about it. You want to make your child feel comfortable and talking to you about this and you don’t want them to feel like if they approach you about it, it’s going to increase your anxiety level. And so as you were listening to them and they’re sharing their questions with you, you want to answer those questions taking into account their developmental level. So you basically just telling them what they need to know at their state and not really anything more. What you’re sharing with them is basically to empower them so they don’t feel clueless and blind and also give them a sense of control so that even though you know all of these changes are occurring around them and we’re acknowledging those changes, these are things that we can do to give ourselves back a sense of control.
Dr. Variste (06:52):
And of course those things. Washing hands, disinfecting countertops and door knobs covering our mouth. When we cough into the tissue and throwing the tissue away or into the crease of the elbow. Sometimes your child may show that they’re scared and you want to acknowledge that you actually want to encourage them telling you and sharing with you that they’re scared because it’s okay to be scared. But we right after that we want to empower the child with things that they can do now that gives them back again, a sense of control that’s really important. On my Facebook page, Jennifer Variste MD, I go into even more detail about some of the things that we can talk to about our children. But I wanted to share this quote from Jamie Howard, PhD, child psychologist at the child mind Institute. She said that kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.
Dr. Variste (07:59):
And that is the whole goal when we have this conversation is empowering the child so that they feel safe. One way to do that is to maintain some stability by letting them know that some things don’t have to change. The schedule may not be the same as it was before and it may not be the same every day. Obviously there’s going to be some variability, but the child needs to know that they can depend on you, you know, to have lunch and dinner ready. But they’re going to depend on you to, you know, tuck them into bed and give them that bedtime story. Those things don’t have to change. And so those are some ways that we can navigate the conversation with our children. The last thing I want to share is that if we are explaining to them why we’re disinfecting the countertops and why we’re cleaning the doorknobs and why we’re covering our mouth when we cough, then everybody is on the same page and it makes, makes it much easier to kind of work toward a common goal and be on the same team when it comes to practicing social distancing and trying to prevent transmission,
When comes to the social distancing. How do we explain it? Especially to younger kids, why they can’t see like their extended family or friends without scaring them.
Dr. Variste (09:20):
Yeah. So again, you want to take into account their age. Some of the younger children, like maybe two or three, we we want to, well, you need to give them credit. Like these kids may understand more than we think they do. Okay. So they may say why the why? But deep down inside they understand sometimes children, you know, repeat the why question more as a coping mechanism. Then the fact that they don’t really understand what’s going on. You know, we basically you can share, we are staying away from grandma or grandpa because we want to protect them. You know, this germ is really serious and we don’t want to unknowingly spread it to them. So because we love them, we are doing all that we can to protect them right now. And so yeah, just kind of reiterating that in different words. The child may not be happy with it, but they do understand
What are some signs that we can look for as far as anxiety and our kids. Some kids may not tell you or they may not cry. So it can be a little bit harder to know that they’re upset. So what are some other things that we can look for?
Dr. Variste (10:42):
Yeah, so that’s a really good question. Like say for an older kid, sometimes they may say that they’re fine, but they’re withdrawing a little bit and you know, they’re in their room a lot or you know, not, not saying much in a sense, kind of respect that enough to give the child enough space to cope, like children cope in different ways. And again, just like, you know, if your three year old tells you that they’re scared and it’s okay to validate it if your 15 year old is coping by withdrawing a little bit, it’s okay to validate that too. Okay. as they come to terms with it, they may not even, know what their questions are right now. They may just need time to process what’s going on before they can actually verbalize what they’re feeling. And the first, the initial way to address that is to give them that space. As long as it is not destructive behavior or disrespecting behavior, then yeah, I would just allow the space and the time to process their emotions. And when they’re ready to verbalize it in a way that they can and they will approach you about it.
And then where should parents look for the information? Like when we don’t know the answer to our children’s questions or like I have older kids and they come to me and they tell me things that are going on and I’m not sure if that’s really the right information.
Dr. Variste (12:20):
Absolutely. So I have offered a couple of resources on my Facebook page, Jennifer Variste MD. In addition to seeing patients, I am also making an effort to stay up to date with what is being reported and what the local health department is sharing. And I have offered myself as a resource to parents. But some good resources are, is a website called healthy children.org and that link is on my Facebook page. Another good website is the https://childmind.org/. They have a great article where they’ve specifically addressed how you can navigate this conversation with your child. And then the CDC is a good reference on how to navigate this conversation with your child. And those links are on my page at Jennifer Variste MD.
Okay, great. Thank you. Was there anything else that you wanted to share just to help families through these next few months or however long we have?
Dr. Variste (13:40):
Yeah, so I just wanted to reiterate how important social distancing is to maintain that six feet where we’re sharing with our children why, you know, we can’t have those play dates with, you know, the friends anymore. We can share how those droplets can travel or those germs can travel six feet. But while we are maintaining social distancing and distancing ourselves physically, I do think it’s important to still maintain a sense of community if at least virtually. So I have created a Facebook group on my page called neighborly moms with an expert, best friend. And this is a group that moms can join really just to lift each other up, support each other if you’re in the spring area. Definitely enjoy. You may meet some other moms in the area. But just to share what are the things that they’re doing to keep their children busy. While they’re social distancing, if there’s a new program that they found and maybe they can share it with other moms. And so I just wanted to offer that to who’s listening that there is a group out there for moms are supporting each other virtually, even though they can’t be with each other physically.
Okay, great. Thank you so much. And I’ll have links to everything that you mentioned and to your Facebook page as well in the show notes.
Dr. Variste (15:08):
Thank you so much.
Dr. Variste (15:08):