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Hunkered down at home, pediatrician wonders: ‘Am I doing enough?’ :

April 24, 2020

Editor’s note:Pediatricians around the country have risen to the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Some are on the front lines battling the virus; others are connecting with patients while hunkered down at home. They are relying on creativity, ingenuity and tenacity to keep their patients healthy and their practices afloat. Here is one pediatrician’s story.

As she sits in her Connecticut home checking in with patients and families via telemedicine, Carol Cohen Weitzman, M.D., FAAP, says what she is doing does not compare with the experiences of her colleagues who are treating patients with COVID-19.

“I’m not a front line guy,” said Dr. Weitzman, director of the CT Center for Developmental Pediatrics. “I’m so spared from some of the really intense things that some people are experiencing. I just don’t put myself in the same category.”

Her patients and families, however, might disagree.

Dr. Weitzman treats kids with autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, behavior issues, anxiety and cognitive limitations.

Since she shifted to telehealth, she has been working primarily with parents. She provides them with strategies and advice to get through what she calls “weird and unusual times.”

She encourages families who have a child with autism to keep their days as structured and predictable as possible. She suggests they write out a daily schedule and keep regular wakeup and bed times. She passes along resources such as social stories on handwashing and why people are wearing masks.

For patients with anxiety, she talks with parents about the importance of acknowledging children’s worries and helping them use calming strategies, particularly mindfulness.

She encourages all families to talk with their kids about what is going on in world, tailoring it to their developmental and cognitive level, and allowing kids to share what’s on their minds.

Dr. Weitzman also is urging parents to take care of themselves.

“There is a huge, huge amount of parental anxiety,” said Dr. Weitzman, professor emeritus of pediatrics and Child Study Center, and senior research scientist at Yale School of Medicine. Parents are worried about being able to educate their kids, about their jobs and finances, about themselves or their children getting sick.

“One message I’m giving and hear many of my colleagues giving to parents is: ‘Be kind to yourselves.’”

Still, Dr. Weitzman wonders whether she is doing enough for her families.

“I struggle with trying to figure out how to reach all of the families and what messaging they want from me and how to be there for them in ways that are helpful and meaningful,” she said. “…That is something that challenges me a little bit. Am I doing enough for these families? Can I do more? How should I do it?”

To read other pediatricians’ stories, visit

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