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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

He says: Too much screen time since COVID!

We have to dig deeper and be more creative with how to occupy our kids.


She says: We are so busy working from home it’s the only way to get anything done.

They’re fine and happy.


Don’t feel guilty about needing regular breaks from your children. In fact, take comfort knowing that they need time and space apart from you, too. COVID changed none of this. So, just because you’re now home together all the time doesn’t mean there’s no longer a place for healthy separateness facilitated by helpers, whether human (sitters) or non-human (devices). Let’s look at each.

It is OK to employ a sitter even when you’re home. Our college-aged daughter worked in the home of a couple with a toddler. The mom worked online in one corner of the house, the dad in another, while our daughter watched the child.  Whenever the child napped, our daughter would tidy up and get schoolwork done. Occasionally, one parent would pop in to interact. At lunch, our daughter would exit to give the family time together while she had some alone time to eat, check email, etc. It can work very well. But sitter time can also get expensive.

So what about devices? We all know how inexpensive and effective screens can be in tranquilizing children. And who’s kidding whom, it’s not just them, it’s us too. We joke in our home about us gathering, Norman-Rockwell-like, around our warm, crackling family hearth: our TV. But lots of screen time, especially solitary screen time, is not good for children (or any of us). As Pope Francis put it, “the family is … where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another.” (Evangelii Gaudium 66) That doesn’t happen so much when we’re each gazing at our own screen. Our default with children should be hands-on and interactive.

But what if the combined demands of your work won’t allow you to provide this for your children, nor can your budget handle a sitter to provide it for you? Consider creating a co-op with other like-minded, work-at-home parents, either in swapping out care for each other’s children or sharing the cost of a sitter. Just make sure that everyone, parents and sitters alike, is on the same page about devices: A screen might occasionally be needed to calm a child, but it shouldn’t be the norm, no matter how content and quieted a child might be with it.

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.

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