But When, Mommy?
Dear Dr. Debbie,
My daughters, ages 8 and 11, have a list of things they want to do when the coronavirus pandemic is over. They started this in May. I try to keep their expectations reasonable, including the expectation that we don’t really know when asymptomatic carriers, social distancing, contact tracing, and e-learning while Mommy telecommutes will no longer affect our daily lives. I also try to keep dire statistics from reaching their ears about rising Covid-19 cases in Maryland and elsewhere, and the enormous loss of life. So far, our family has weathered relatively minor challenges since the first Stay-at-Home orders in March for which I am grateful. What’s a good way to respond to my children’s impatience?
Another Day With Familiar Faces
The best approach is a mix of optimism and honesty. Just be sure to separate children’s problems from grown-up problems.
Empathy is a good response from a parent to a problem that cannot be resolved as quickly as a child would like. Children miss their friends. Children struggle with onscreen schooling. Your children have probably experienced many cancellations – holiday get togethers, birthday parties, spring recitals, graduation ceremonies, sleepaway camp, and regular in-person gatherings for scouts and other out-of-school pursuits. Any one of these hardships would be difficult for a child to bear.
Getting to the end of the pandemic is a grown-up problem. Local leaders are determining ever-changing restrictions for the safety of in-person schooling and for crowds in public places. The current advisement is against spending indoor time with anyone not of your household. We’ve also been urged not to travel because it risks bringing the virus to others or bringing the virus back home. Adults make these determinations for other grown-ups to adhere to, including parents, based on the recommendations of other adults who have first-hand knowledge of the current state of the spread of the virus as well as expertise on the ways of epidemics. Granted these actions are difficult, but most adults are handling the crisis with all the grace we can muster.
The good news is that a vaccine appears to be on the way. It is believed that the most vulnerable among us will be vaccinated first – the elderly, those whose health issues put them at greater risk for death from the virus, and people living in or working in group homes where the virus can rapidly spread. The current estimate from the National Center For Disease Control and Prevention is that vaccines may be ready for this first group as soon as December and that vaccines for everyone else will be available by May of 2021.
Remind your children that many adults are working hard to bring this crisis to an end: frontline health workers, medical researchers, statisticians studying the numbers on the virus and its spread, and authorities responsible for the health of students, teachers, and the general population.
Covid-19 brings great physical suffering to some of its victims. It brings anguish to their loved ones who cannot be with them when they have to isolate at home or are in the hospital. It brings grief when the virus is stronger than the patient’s ability to fight it off. Social restrictions have caused financial catastrophes related to job losses, business closings, etc. causing some families to have to drastically cut expenses and maybe even have to move. And lots of people are craving human contact.
When your children are older they can better process the toll this historic event is taking. But for now, commiserate with them on their very real hardships. Help them look forward to the things they’ll do when the hard-working grown-ups make it safe for us to resume the activities we’re missing and to be with the people we can’t be with right now.
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