Coronavirus: Parenting in an Uncertain World

​Dr. Catherine Fuchs, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science and Pediatrics, talks about the Coronavirus: Parenting in an Uncertain World psychoeducational parenting group at Vanderbilt for faculty and staff who are parents.

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Bridgette Butler:  Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness wellcast.  I'm Bridgette Butler with Health Plus.  Today, we are going to be learning about "Coronavirus:  Parenting in an Uncertain World," a new parenting group that has been created at Vanderbilt in response to the challenges of parenting during coronavirus.  Joining me to talk about this new psychoeducational group for parents is one of the group's creators, Dr. Catherine Fuchs, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics.  Welcome, Dr. Fuchs!
Dr. Catherine Fuchs:  Thank you.  Good to be here.

Bridgette Butler:  Well, we are happy to have you here and to learn about this amazing new resource that you created.  So, the group was developed as a psychoeducational group.  What is a psychoeducational group?

Dr. Catherine Fuchs:  Psychoeducation really refers to education around information related to psychological issues.  So, we created the concept of the group that would help parents have the information that could be useful in responding to the stress of coronavirus, and how that impacts their kids, themselves as parents, and just daily life.

Bridgette Butler:  This particular psychoeducation group for parents, why was this developed at this time?

Dr. Catherine Fuchs:  In terms of just recognizing the impact of a pandemic on the general population and seeing what we see clinically, it's important to think about prevention and support for families.  So, if you look at the pandemic, it's almost like there are all these concentric circles.  You've got the acute worries about illness and then you have the worries about illness in your loved ones and then you have the impact of kids being home from school, and for some kids, that's a good thing; for others, it's maybe not as good a thing, but for parents, it's certainly a huge change in the structure of the day.  You've got parents juggling, trying to maintain a job, and they are working from home, or some parents who have lost a job and trying to deal with the economic impacts.  So, there are so many areas that this pandemic is affecting people that, I think it becomes really important to look at - what does that do in terms of just the family and your kids and managing your own response.  Social distancing is the other factor that creates major challenges.

Bridgette Butler:  Who is going to be leading this group and what is the group format like?

Dr. Catherine Fuchs:  We are offering two separate groups, one on Tuesdays and the other on Thursdays, and each group will be led by one of our clinical psychology interns.  So, these are individuals who have completed their undergraduate degree, have completed their Masters work in psychology and almost completed their Ph.D. in psychology and they are doing a clinical internship with us.  We have a Tuesday group and that's going to be at 8:00 a.m.  Then, Thursdays, we are offering an afternoon group, so that will be at 4 o'clock,

Bridgette Butler:  What sort of discussions can parents look forward to having as part of this group?

Dr. Catherine Fuchs:  We will provide a didactic section where, providing information about different topics, and I will mention some of the topics in a minute, but then also make sure there's time for questions and answers and discussion by the participants who are there.  So, we have several topics.  Certainly, other topics may come up as parents ask questions, but in general, how do I talk to my child about this virus, and those of us who work with children are very developmentally-focused and recognize that talking with a five-year-old is very different than talking with a 15-year-old.  So, they will address some of the developmental aspects of that dialogue and try to help parents, especially if you have a five-year-old and a 15-year-old, to think through how to manage that balance.  We will be talking about how do you help your child cope with uncertainty during this time of pandemic, and to help a child cope with uncertainty, we will also need to talk about how, you as a parent, cope with uncertainty, because I think we all, before this pandemic, at least, thought we had some control over our daily lives and whatever level of control that we thought we had has been shaken by this pandemic, and that sense of uncertainty can generate anxiety in people.  We will talk about helpful tips for social distancing.  There are a lot of teenagers who are saying, "I just want to be with my friends," and how do you help your teenager factor in the importance of social distancing and actually implement it, or how do you help a young child who doesn't really understand the need for social distancing?  And then, just acknowledging the parental worries and stresses that they have, so the parents who have to keep the household going, and either single parent or not - how do you get groceries and worries about exposure and managing exposure? How do you manage your worries about your aging parent or parents if they are in the picture?  How do you manage home-schooling?  So, there are all kinds of stressors that parents are dealing with right now, and just some guidance and ideas on how to manage that.  So, this is not a therapy group.  This is really an educational group about - how can I get some tools and strategies for managing these questions and worries that I might have?  How do you talk with your kids about loss or grief, because some families are going to be impacted by loss during this time. How do you talk about emotions in a way that is protective and supportive for your child and for yourself?  And further, just how, as an individual, can I strengthen my own resilience?

Bridgette Butler:  These are very important topics, very important questions that people have, and I know that everyone will really appreciate being able to have a forum to discuss them and especially with the professional guidance.  Who can participate in this group and how can you participate?

Dr. Catherine Fuchs:  So, it's designed for faculty and staff here at Vanderbilt who are parents, and we have had one individual who referred a faculty or staff member whose adult daughter is a parent and that individual signed up.  So, we are really trying to support the families of our faculty and staff.  And how to participate?  Signing up with the REDCap link You will join in on Zoom.  There will be the educational component that the leader will provide and then there will be opportunity for question and answer.  The REDCap link is\covidcoping.

Bridgette Butler:  Great.  That's a good one ... easy to remember.  We'll make sure to include that link, not only in the transcript of the interview but also on the web page with the wellcast.

Bridgette Butler:  Dr. Catherine Fuchs, thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Catherine Fuchs:  Thank you.  It's good to be here.
Bridgette Butler:  Thanks for listening.  If you have a story suggestion, use the "Contact Us" page on our website at