Flu season is coming up and actor James Van Der Beek is not taking any chances with his growing brood. The longtime TV star (Dawson’s Creek anyone?) and father of three, Olivia, 4, Joshua, 2, and Annabel, nearly 9 months, is spreading the word on fighting influenza with FluMist Quadrivalent, a needle-free flu vaccine. Parents took some one-on-one time with James to talk TLC, how being a dad to daughters has changed him, and the one thing he would do if he had 45 minutes to himself.
P: We’re here for FluMist. Vaccines have been a big buzz topic. What is your take on vaccines and what do you say to parents who might not be with you?
JVDB: I totally understand the debate about vaccines. They certainly have a utility. My wife and I went back and forth on the whole vaccine issue, quite a bit, but when it came to the flu vaccine specifically it was something we decided to do. Initially I was afraid you could get the flu from a flu vaccine. You actually can’t. It’s impossible. That was new to me. When I found that out, I realized there are a lot of myths about the flu that even I had—as health-conscious as I am. When I found out that it hospitalized 200,000 people a year and that it’s responsible for the hospitalization of more children than any other vaccine-preventable disease, that’s when I thought this is something that I can really get behind and help spread the word. And [FluMist] is needle free. Kids don’t like when you stick needles in them. Go figure. My 4-year-old did it and didn’t cry and was really proud of herself. We did not vaccinate our kids last year and I had two kids with the flu and my wife was pregnant. And G-d forbid it can lead to some bad complications.
JVDB: Well my first kid was a daughter, yeah you do start to be more concerned with the world in general knowing your kids are going to go out in it. You start to really look at other people’s attitudes towards women especially, and you’re a lot more hyperaware.
P: Have you seen the YouTube videos of the daddy-daughter dates? Would you take Olivia or Annabel on a father-daughter first date?
JVDB: I just loved stories. I loved to have a story to tell and my kids will tell me a story and the only way I’ll know that they’re making it up is that there’s a dragon in it. Everything else is really believable until a dragon makes an appearance and I say, “Oh ok you’re making this up.” I turn to my wife and go, “Sorry…my bad.”
P: You’re three kids in, what do you think you’ve learned and you’re doing better with the third than the first?
JVDB: I’ve come to just realize how important it is to embrace the chaos. There might be parents out there who are able to manage everything neat and tidy, but that’s certainly not us. Fighting to really find that appreciation in all of those moments is so important because it really does go by so quickly. It’s a big cliché and it’s so true. There are those times when you’re just so frustrated and you just think to yourself “Really?!” Especially those moments: sit there and think I’m gonna miss this when it’s not happening.
P: What still continues to baffle you? Is there anything you wish someone would tell you the secret to?
JVDB: How do kids have that much energy?
P: I think we should institute adult naptime.
JVDB: I would LOVE adult naptime. I would endorse that in two seconds.
P: You recently had 45 minutes to yourself and you didn’t know what to do. If you had 45 minutes again, do you know what you would do?
JVDB: I should work out because that’s catch as catch can. What I would love to do is to see if I’ve got a football game recorded that nobody has ruined the score for me and just spend 45 minutes going through that. That would be something…. That’s so pathetic. Better than doing the dishes, which is what I think I did last time. I find myself doing dishes saying, “Why am I doing dishes right now? I could be doing anything.”
P: Despite the lack of free time, you seem to be very happy as a father. Was there one moment when you went “Wow. I’m a dad.”
JVDB: Yeah. First moment my first one was born. That was it. It was pretty instantaneous. I’d wanted that for a long time so when it did happen it felt like the resolution to a lot of unanswered questions in my life.
Photograph: Via Instagram with permission from James Van Der Beek
As mom to 4-year-old Charlotte and 17-month old Rocky, actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, 36, was blown away when she learned how easily the disease can spread. Because newborns can’t get vaccinated right away, it’s still a must for adults who plan to be around an infant; the vaccine you got as a child has likely worn off. Parents caught up with the Sounds of Pertussis campaign ambassador to get her take on the disease as well as her tips for raising a healthy and active family.
P: What makes you so passionate about this health issue?
S: Once you become a parent, your main job is to protect your children in any way possible. When I first had Charlotte, whooping cough was something most of my friends thought had been eradicated. People aren’t aware that 80 percent of the time when you link back to how an infant gets the disease, it comes from a family member or direct caregiver. That’s the scariest thought. Our job is to protect them, and if it’s something as simple as getting a vaccination, that’s something everyone needs to know.
P: What can moms say to convince family and friends to get vaccinated?
S: It’s about making the information understandable. The way I liken it is if someone has a cold usually they will try to stay away from your baby so he doesn’t get sick. So why would you potentially expose a child to something that’s even more fatal, like pertussis? When you put it in those simple terms, how can anyone who loves a child say no? When the information is coming from someone you trust, it’s a very easy decision.
P: It can be stressful when your kids don’t feel well. How do you handle Charlotte or Rocky getting sick?
S: There’s no question that the very first time your child gets that stuffy nose and cold, it completely freaks you out. You have so much guilt because you can’t explain it to them. I think sometimes first-time parents have this thing of, “I don’t want to bother the doctor and be that annoying parent.” But if you have a question, you need to ask it. As you have more children and become an experienced parent, you sort of get to the point with the colds where you’re like, “If it’s not severe, you’re going to school.”
P: You’re a very active person. How do you encourage your kids to keep fit as well?
S: The beauty of children is that everything is interesting to them. The more you involve them in whatever activity it is you’re doing, they just love to be part of your life. I let my daughter go walking with me and our dog Bella outside. And there’s still so many fun activities you can do for children exercise-wise in inclement weather. My daughter practices Yoga and Jiu-Jitsu. It’s about taking the time to listen to your child and find what interests her. Whatever those things are that appeal to children and get their minds flowing, that can help keep them healthy and active.
P: How do you motivate Charlotte and Rocky to eat healthy?
S: Including children in the actual preparation of food is a big thing. We started Charlotte in cooking classes at about 3, and seeing what goes into it gave her a new appreciation for vegetables. Whether you’re growing produce in your backyard or taking a trip to your local farmer’s market, seeing those different aspects can get children excited to eat better. And anything you can do to give a young child ownership and help him feel independent, that’s what you ultimately want. Even if it’s as simple as letting Rocky sprinkle cheese on eggs or a pizza. You just see his face light up.
P: What else can moms do to teach their children the importance of good health?
S: It ultimately comes down to explaining at a young age what healthy living means, teaching a child what germs are and how easily they are transmitted or how to wash his hands correctly. Those very simple things can really stop the spread, not just for your own family but for your friends and everyone else your child comes into contact with.
Whether you’ve had the vaccine or not, visit the campaign’s Breathing Room Facebook app to help spread the word about pertussis. There, you can create a virtual room for your Baby and invite family and friends to join you in the fight for protection. Every little step counts!
In the meantime, watch this short video to learn what whooping cough sounds like.
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