TODAY Interview: Sarah Michelle Gellar on how she noticed son's vision problem

The actress says the biggest parenting lesson she's learned is to trust her gut when she thinks her kids are struggling.
/ Source: TODAY

When Sarah Michelle Gellar noticed her 8-year-old son, Rocky, struggling to focus on his screen during online learning, the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" actress assumed it was due to eye strain.

"I really chalked it up to screen fatigue because my kids didn’t have a lot of access to devices (before the coronavirus quarantine,)" Gellar told TODAY Parents. "All of a sudden they’re thrown into this world where they’re on Zoom for school and the only way they can connect with their friends afterwards is to continue on these devices. It was not something my kids were used to."

Because of their newly found expanse of screen time, Gellar says it was easy for her to shrug off Rocky's tendency to blink heavily while trying to focus on the screen in front of him. But, as time progressed and quarantine went on, she grew more concerned and had her son evaluated by an eye doctor.

"They said not only did he have myopia — the common term is nearsightedness — but it was progressing extremely rapidly," said Gellar, who also has an 11-year-old daughter, Charlotte, with husband Freddie Prinze Jr.

Gellar spoke with TODAY Parents as part of her work promoting CooperVision, an eyewear company that makes contacts that are safe for kids and have been proven to slow the progression of myopia in kids ages 8-12. Gellar says Rocky is excited to try the contact lenses, as he's resisted wearing glasses and is concerned about how glasses will effect his ability to play sports.

Rocky's vision isn't the only observation about her son Gellar made while quarantining with her family in her Los Angeles, California home.

"He’s also left handed and it makes you realize the world is not set up for left-handed people," she said. "I really feel for these kids."

“Kids go to school and they have professionals who are there to see that stuff and we count on that, but there is a difference when you know your own child inside and out," Gellar continued. "You have to go with your gut as a parent. I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever learned. You know your kid."

Gellar says she's learned to be extra grateful for her kids' teachers while attempting to homeschool.

"California is full homeschool," she said. "It’s extremely difficult. Understanding a concept is extremely different than being able to teach a concept. I may comprehend it, but that doesn’t mean that I can explain it to my kids in a way that they follow."

For Rocky, who is in second grade, and Charlotte, who is in fifth, having mom as a teacher has meant some added P.E. classes as well.

"We’re pretty strict about screen time," Gellar admitted. "During the school day screens are only for school, so there’s no television, there’s no texting friends, there’s no nothing. As soon as school’s out, we try to do physical activity outside as a family whether it’s hiking or taking a walk or biking or swimming. We've also gotten really into board games."

Gellar says she's learned to lock down screen time limits for her kids, even limiting how much time they can play popular games like Roblox and encouraging them to use their iPads for art or math games instead.

Still, the 43-year-old gets the draw screens have in the time of COVID.

"I don’t want to take it away from them because it’s one of the ways they communicate with their friends," she said, explaining she makes decisions on a day-by-day basis. "At the end of the day, parents really do know their children. You really sort of have to go with that."