Dr. Corinne Masur
States are opening up. Beaches are opening up.
Camp is cancelled.
And we are tired of being quarantined.
Parents are asking:
Can we re-emerge? And how do we do it safely?
Lots of people have started considering their options. They have started to think about seeing people, about going back to work, about actually eating out. And they feel like they can’t survive much longer without setting up some sort of play dates for their kids or young teens.
The isolation, the deprivation is just getting to be too much.
Some people have said “To !@#!@ with it, I’ll just get the virus and get it over with”.
Some people have said, “Well I’m just going to just see people who aren’t seeing other people.” They’ve formed “pods.”
Some people have said, “I have to get back to work. I can’t not work anymore. The economy just can’t tolerate it and neither can I.”
Some people have invited a hair dresser to their house to give them and their families a haircut.
It is hard to live lives so different from what we’re used to. It is hard not to see the people we love, the people we have fun with, the people we want to hug and kiss. It is hard to socialize only on screens.
And many of us feel like we’ve reached our limit.
But now what?
Is it Ok to arrange some play dates?
And how about going to the beach? What about swimming in a neighbor’s pool? Or setting up a baby pool and inviting other kids to come over and get in?
Well, states ARE opening up, restaurants and business are opening and the beaches ARE open in some places – but Coronavirus has not gone away.
For those children and adults who have not had it, it is still a risk to socialize with others whose socialization histories we don’t know. According to a former director of the CDC, as quoted in a recent article in the New York Times, “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”
In other words, we’re opening because we’re tired of this.
And, as a result, according to the article, “The much-feared “second wave” of infection may not wait until fall, many scientists say, and instead may become a storm of wavelets breaking unpredictably across the country.” But we won’t see this wave right away. “It takes two or three weeks for the newly infected who become severely ill to need hospitalization. An initial calm may encourage more Americans to drop their guard or more governors to ease restrictions.”
In other words, we need to persevere with masks and social distances and a certain amount of deprivation.
We need to get out. But we need to get out safely. So here are some tips:
If you want to set up play dates, consider having them outdoors with only a couple of children at a time. Let the children know ahead of time what the rules are for social distancing.
Try some of the following:
- Letting your kids ride bikes or scooters with a couple of friends, staying several feet away from each other.
- Letting your kids play one on one badminton if you have a net or tennis if you have access to a court – being across the net from each other is automatic distancing! Just make sure you let them know that BEFORE and AFTER the games it will be time for 6 feet apart again.
- Meeting another family at a state park which has a lake and have each family rent a canoe and paddle around together.
- Meeting another family at a trail and letting the kids hike or mountain bike on a trail, keeping social distance while on the trail and when off the bikes.
- Getting together with other kids who have been quarantined and whose parents have been careful about social distancing and who are not going to work yet.
- Letting teens who drive and have access to a car get together by driving their cars to a common place (a park or parking lot) and talking to each other from the cars.
- Having your family setup chairs outside to visit with others that way, being clear with the kids that they must give everyone 6 feet.
- Going to an older relative’s house and setting up chairs on their lawn or side walk for a short visit.
- Going to the beach and taking a large beach blanket and it making it YOUR space. Let your children know before you go that they must either stay on your beach blanket or take a walk or a swim with you or each other (depending on their ages) and keep at least 6 feel from anyone else.
- AND continue getting together online.
But what about toddlers who cannot understand about social distancing? A grandmother recently asked if she should have a social distancing barbeque with her daughter and son in law and their 18-month-old. Her husband is dying to hug his grandson and simply cannot wait another month!
This is tough. We want to see each other, touch and hug each other – and toddlers, who are often naturally affectionate, will want do that more than anyone!
My advice to this grandmother was to have the barbeque – we NEED to see the ones we love. But we need to do it safely. I suggested that the toddler be allowed to hug grandma and grandpa around the legs and that EVERYONE keep the 6-foot distance from one another the rest of the time. That won’t be enough – but it’s better than nothing. And I suggested having the parents prepare their toddler for what a “grandma and grandpa hug” will be – and to practice it before they go. Again, it won’t be easy – but it will be better than not seeing each at all.
And what about going to restaurants, getting haircuts at the salon and that sort of thing?
Well, social distancing and wearing masks and washing hands frequently are still the safest ways we know to stay well. If you feel you can go out AND take these precautions while being out, if you are willing to take a bit more risk, then do so. Different families have different levels of risk tolerance. We will see plenty of people doing things we wouldn’t do or at least that we haven’t done yet. This will challenge our own standards and beliefs about what is safe.
It’s hard. We will be tempted to judge other families for their choices and we may feel judged for ours.
We all just have to make the choices for ourselves and our children that we feel are best for us and let others do the same.