AS DIFFERENT STATES begin to make decisions about how and when to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, many parents are feeling uneasy, confused and even scared. We know the virus hasn’t magically vanished.
So what can we do during this “in between” time to prepare ourselves and our families for what’s next? We need to get to a place where we feel comfortable that we’ve taught our kids the proper guidelines for how to navigate this next stage of the pandemic. Eventually, we’ll have to trust that our kids – at least tweens and teens – know what’s OK and what’s not.
Maybe it’s your high school senior asking if he or she can go to the school parking lot to meet up with friends while they sit on the tailgates of their cars. Or perhaps it’s your younger kids asking to go for a “socially distanced” walk or a physically spaced out – 6 feet apart – hang out at a nearby park.
As parents, we need to make informed decisions and set smart guidelines our kids can follow. That way they’ll be able to remain safe as they start begging to come out of hibernation, while the coronavirus continues to circulate.
So how do we let go of fear and trust our kids when it’s so much easier to say, “No, just stay home”?
First off, we have to explain to our kids the “why” behind the precautions we’re taking and the need to obey the rules going forward. This way, as they make choices and ask whether they can go out, they’ll have some understanding of when and why you might say yes (or no) and how to handle themselves when you’re not around to supervise.
At this point, most kids and adults alike are ready for some social interaction. In the coming months, our families are going to need to find creative, safe ways to maintain human connections outside our homes. We could all use a little breathing room and external sources of fun. But how do we manage that while following proper health and family guidelines?
How about inviting a family over for after-dinner s’mores around a fire pit in the backyard? Have everyone bring their own marshmallow melting stick and lawn chair, each to properly be spaced apart. Another option is a “bring your own” pancake breakfast where neighbors hang out in the driveway or on their lawns and chat (or sometimes shout) from, again, at least 6 feet away.
Knowledge is power, so let’s begin to move from a place of fear, isolation and passive watching to one of education, rebirth and compassion. As we evaluate stepping back out into the world and raising kids in the age of a global pandemic, there are some key tenants to keep in mind to stay safe and look out for our family and others in our community.
Follow the Data
Science and data have played an essential role in protecting our health in the face of COVID-19, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The need for evidence-based guidelines that build trust and understanding are essential. Data-backed rules also help us recognize that individual actions do, in fact, have repercussions for our communities. And that last part is vitally important as states begin to “reopen.”
Science – including recommendations from public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – should be the benchmark for our future decisions when it comes to this pandemic. Don’t rely solely on the media, our political leaders or social media platforms to edit down and present you with the information you need to keep your family safe.
If what you’re hearing doesn’t line up with public health recommendations – even if it’s what you want to hear – take a step back before applying it to your life. It’s up to us to seek out accurate scientific data so that we can decide how to live safely and happily in this next stage of the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has advised six presidents on public health issues, is from my hometown of Larchmont, New York, and he regularly shares easy-to-follow, evidence-based recommendations. If you want to know how my family is handling this pandemic, we have a saying in our house: “If Fauci says it’s OK, then let’s talk about it!”
Go With Your Instincts
We can stay informed, read all the public health guidelines and learn about every possible way we might catch the virus. But at the end of the day, there’s a voice inside of us that knows what feels right.
Of course, if you're fuzzy on what your gut is telling you, err on the side of caution. I, for one, tend to play things more conservatively.
Even though I’ve read the guidelines for safe grocery shopping over and over, I’m still choosing to have our groceries delivered right now. That way, I get to skip the feelings of anxiety and save the time it takes to go to the store. Additionally, many grocery stores also offer pickup options that allow you to get groceries “delivered” right to the trunk of your waiting car. Check with the store near you for details, including cost.
We all do things at our own pace. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t ready for a socially distanced walk with a friend just yet. Check in with your body and mind, ask questions and challenge yourself.
Ask what it is that’s making you uncomfortable about a potential outing. What’s holding you back? Are your fears founded in fact? Look inward.
If you’re concerned about job security, what is being asked of you to do your work? And can you safely meet the demands of your job during this pandemic? If not, can you discuss with your employer a way to do your work – whether from home, or not – in a manner that follows all recommendations to keep you and your family safe.
Remember, a counselor or therapist is always available to talk if you need it. Teletherapy options allow you to connect with a mental health professional by video chat using just a computer, tablet or smartphone or with a simple phone call. Teletherapy, like telemedicine, is now more broadly covered by Medicare and private insurers to support social distancing measures during the pandemic.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline also provides free, confidential, 24-hour treatment referral and information about mental and substance use disorders treatment and prevention in English and Spanish. And an app, Lyf, offers a virtual global support group, with psychologists available to answer questions and provide feedback for those struggling with anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other issues – whether related to the coronavirus or not.
As for the kids, they’re going to want to get out. And it’s important that we convey that we trust that they will follow our guidelines. Again, making those rules clear and showing them how to integrate the guidelines into their lives will allow them to do just this when they leave home.
Finally, it’s critical that we have respect for ourselves and others as we make decisions about how we can get out and about safely. Follow all official public health guidelines, of course, but also take any additional precautions necessary to ensure the safety of others. Respect your neighbor in the big-picture sense of the word by considering how your decisions might affect those around you.
Think about how that nice older couple feels when you stroll past them on the sidewalk without wearing a face mask. Maybe masks aren’t required where you live, but would they feel more comfortable if you wore one, knowing that you care about their well-being? Or should you give them a wider berth?
Look around you. Notice what’s making people feel comfortable during these scary times, and be respectful of that. It's important to remember that people are feeling a wide range of emotions right now. Many face financial insecurities and need to go back to work.
Respect goes a long way in building community, even if we’re spending a lot of time visiting virtually and interacting from across the street. Ultimately, community – in any form – is something we could all use right now.
#FamilyWellness #Pandemic #Covid19