The “Safer at Home” advisory for Massachusetts issued on May 18th, 2020 says that “parents should limit play dates with children.” If you are wondering what this means, you are not alone! Is the recommendation to have play dates less frequently than usual, to arrange play dates with a limited number of people, or to use extra precautions during play dates? Maybe all three? What does this mean for kids of various ages? What about teens?
Play Dates with Younger Children
by Stacey Langknecht
What will it mean for families as Massachusetts begins to “open up”? I’m predicting there will be a mixed reaction – some people may jump for joy and want to burn their masks, while others may feel more anxious about COVID-19 spreading more easily. When kids are involved, it gets more complicated.
First, don’t burn your masks! Wearing them in public and continuing social distance practices will continue – and likely increase – for everyone’s safety.
As I think about families with younger children, I think about the possibility of play dates and then, to be honest, I squirm a bit. Young children, in their innocence and enthusiasm, are probably the most prone to overstepping the social distancing guidelines and other protocols.
Before you start to schedule play dates, it is very helpful to make a plan with the other parents/guardians about what’s OK and what’s not and to talk with your kids about it. Also, since it’s been awhile since many kids have played in person with other kids outside their households, they may need some clear, new information about keeping toys separate and maintaining agreed upon distance.. For these reasons, and for safety, it may be helpful to limit the frequency of getting together and keep it to one friend at a time.
Before the play date, think about safe activities that kids can do together. How about good old-fashioned outdoor fun, like kicking a ball around in the yard, playing “no touch tag”, or having sack races? If you have a driveway or sidewalk and some outdoor chalk, hopscotch is an option, or draw a house plan or other scene for pretend play. Drawing or coloring a few feet apart is a great quiet activity, too, and it can be done outside.
Even with these no contact activities, it may be a good idea to wear masks in case the kids end up coming close to each other. And when you say goodbye, be sure to have everyone wash their hands thoroughly as well as any toys they played with outside. The good news is that kids sometimes have an easier time than adults at getting used to new norms.
Social distancing and face coverings will be our new norm for a while, but we can still have fun at a distance!
Stacey Langknecht is the Family Engagement Coordinator for the Gill-Montague Regional School District and Parent & Family Liaison at The Brick House. She contributed this piece for the May 22, 2020 Coalition Connections newsletter.
Teens and Tweens – Socializing with Precautions
by Ilana Gerjuoy, with gratitude to local parents who shared their experience and tips
Thinking about the initial stages of re-opening, what are parents of teens and tweens noticing and considering at this time? We checked in with a few local parents and here is what they shared!
They notice that every parent has unique rules and their teens and friends have a wide variety of responses to COVID-19 precautions. This pandemic can really raise anxiety for teens, and this may lead to not wanting to go out at all. On the other end of the spectrum, parents expressed concerns that some local teens think that “reopening” means that everything goes back to pre-quarantine norms immediately, rather than a phased approach.
Some parents are starting to allow their teens to socialize with friends or have been for a few weeks, with precautions.
What does “socializing with precautions” mean for teens? There are a lot of options.
Here are a few ideas from local parents that work for their teens too!
- Socially distant (at least 6 feet apart) picnics in public places like the track at school, a park with lots of space, or a front yard with enough space.
- Socially distant walks and bike rides on trails or roads wide enough to maintain 6 feet of distance.
- Photography, creating short videos, homemade obstacle courses with low touch requirements, and other creative and athletic pursuits that work well at a distance.
- Spending time with fewer restrictions with one friend whose whole family is on board with the same level of precautions. This can, in effect, merge the two households in the same “bubble” so it requires a lot of communication between everyone but can reduce the sense of social isolation for multiple people.
- Bring masks even for outside activities, in case they can’t maintain distance or want to briefly go into a business (which many parents want to check in about ahead of time with teens).
- Bring hand sanitizer for all activities.
- Think about which typically indoor activities can be moved outdoors, including video games, charades or theater games with enough distance built in, art and science projects, etc.
- Talk through plans before teens try new types of activities to think through any specific needs e.g. separate blankets for picnics, how to get back home quickly if they need to use the bathroom, etc.
More on socializing with precautions:
A guide to negotiating a covid “bubble” with other people: Planning to widen your social circle? This article offers tips on how to have the conversation.
When Can I See My Grandkids? The pandemic has separated many grandparents from their grandchildren. Here’s advice from the New York Times for reuniting generations with precautions.
Questions from Quarantine YouTube series: 5 minute interviews with a security advisor and doctor who are also moms in Massachusetts.