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Sunday, February 5, 2023
HomeFamilyParenting AdviceNo End in Sight for Pandemic Protocols—Good Parenting

No End in Sight for Pandemic Protocols—Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My children are asking me whether we can meet up with friends at a park to “stay apart enough” to make it safe.

They’ve heard my husband and me debating the risks of getting haircuts at a shop versus continuing our at-home measures. Our leanings are toward being resolute about staying healthy and protecting the health of the community. What are good talking points to convince the children, ages 6, 9, and 12, that this is the right thing to do?

Making a Case

Dear MaC,

Invisible germs and asymptomatic carriers can make this a tough sell. Unless you have been personally touched by the coronavirus it may be hard to practice the difficult behaviors necessary to prevent infection from spreading. And that’s adults. Children, even more so, rely on tangible evidence to curb their natural preference to do as they please. This is why parents and other important role models and rule enforcers must stay strong. Science, patience, and resourcefulness will get us through this ongoing emergency.

Stay informed through the expertise of frontline health workers and research scientists so you can help your children understand how contagion works. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an excellent reference for up-to-date public health information.

Explain that microscopic particles transfer from an infected “host” to another person via exhaled water droplets and from things an infected person has touched. Show your children this video from a lab at Florida Atlantic University to help them understand how coughing, or just breathing, can spread germs.

Here’s another short video, this one from Babylon Health in London, England, that simulates coronavirus germs on hands with glow-in-the dark gel. The number of virus germs that enter your body and the condition of your immune system will determine how sick you can get.

Examples of social situations that create “community spread” have been those in which people spent at least a couple of hours together in an indoor space and or passed objects from person to person. Being anywhere outside your home increases the risk of breathing air or touching surfaces that are contaminated.

Science tell us to stay home as much as possible. If anyone in the home needs to go out where there may be other people, take a cloth facemask and use it correctly. Upon returning home, practice effective handwashing.

Scientists tend to be methodical and patient. They need time to observe the behavior of this new virus, to test various treatments of the disease, and to learn how to best prevent its contagion. They rely on studies with a sufficient number of people, and on the reliability of repeat studies, to declare any research as sound. As tempting as it may be, breaking Maryland’s Safer at Home directive with an attitude of “Let’s try it and see if anyone gets sick” is too risky – for your family and for the more vulnerable individuals in your community that could become infected by your actions.

Each state has had to balance science with constituents’ needs for commerce and social interaction. Local jurisdictions are further responsible for monitoring and modifying what works for diverse geographic areas. It is hard for children (and some adults) to see that prohibited activities are being enjoyed by someone else. Yet with up to a two-week incubation period before COVID-19 symptoms appear, loosened restrictions will play out as an experiment that bears continued scientific observation. Before he has symptoms one person, Patient One, could attend a friendly gathering of 10 people where he could potentially affect 30 of their family members when germs are innocently carried home. Since he has no symptoms for up to 14 days, Patient One may continue to spread more germs through community contacts before he feels sick. Depending on how many infected droplets are inhaled, or touched and transferred, as he carries out his interactions, an increasing number of carriers are being created. Meanwhile the virus could have spread exponentially from the 30 members of his friends’ families to 30 community contacts for each of them, which means 900 individuals are soon rapidly magnifying the result of one small gathering. Break the chain of contagion by continuing to stay at home as much as possible. Be patient, not another patient.

Use this time at home to practice patience with your children. Start and nurture a garden. Plan and carry out a bedroom makeover. Increase mastery on a musical instrument or with a foreign language. Write and illustrate an epic adventure with characters, plot twists, and other details contributed weekly or daily by everyone in the family. Mark a calendar with one proud achievement for each person each day. Like the glass that is either seen as half-empty or half-full, consider whether the pandemic has robbed you of time or has given you time.

Time will pass, regardless of what you choose to do with it. So choose well. How can you continue to meet the needs of your family despite, or maybe inspired by, restrictions and changes imposed by the pandemic?

Many families are discovering they are living with cooks of all ages. Necessity being the mother of invention, mothers, fathers, and children alike are coming up with new twists to old recipes. Meals could be planned with different restaurant themes, complete with printed menus and a rotating staff of cooks and servers.

With the school calendar officially ending soon, continue to enhance your children’s education with what you have access to from home. Take topics, concepts, and skills that were in their lessons and assignments to inspire further reading, projects, and presentations. Use the massive resources of Anne Arundel County Public Library to explore non-fiction topics and to enjoy more works of literature by authors introduced this school year. Find online resources from the Association of Children’s Museums with links to stay-at-home learning activities offered by children’s museums around the globe. The American Museum of Natural History has a whole webpage dedicated to children’s fascination with the natural world.

With prudence for social distancing, and timing to minimize needing to use a public bathroom, take advantage of natural areas near you for a short family hike, some nature photography, or time to explore a creek or shoreline. Since March 16, 2020 Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks has waived the per car entrance fee to encourage physical exercise and a healthy dose of nature during this global health emergency. Parks are good for the spirit, too. 

With some restrictions being lifted for businesses it should be expected that children expect to resume their out-of-home social interactions as well. Maintain your resolve to wait things out.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist with degrees in Early Childhood Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Workshops for parents, teachers, and childcare professionals can be found at: www.drdebbiewood.com.

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com


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