When Not Everyone Follows The Rules During The Pandemic

I can hear the screams of children echoing through our neighbourhood on any given evening. Under normal circumstances those noises fill my heart but today, as we all struggle through isolation, it makes me a bit anxious. My kids steal glances at the groups of kids who are congregating and then look back to us with pleading eyes.

“Can I just go play basketball for a bit? I promise I’ll keep my distance,” my son begs us. His pleading turns to frustration when we say no. “I’m not going to get sick! You’re so overprotective,” he adds before storming off.

We have been diligent in following the recommendations and guidelines surrounding staying home and maintaining physical distance since the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19.

This in itself seems to be controversial. Some think the recommendations are over the top, while others aren’t even sure how to interpret the guidelines as they are.

After an early exposure to someone who tested positive, we spent a couple of very stressful weeks in quarantine. From then, we decided to put our trust in the experts and medical professionals since they are committed to the scientific research to figure this virus out.

So when the recommendation was to stay home, we stayed home.

“As time went on, the novelty wore off.”

The first few weeks were a bit of a novelty for the kids. They didn’t have to go to school, the weather wasn’t great so they weren’t missing playing outside too much and even the break from a demanding sports schedule was welcome. They did their school work, played board games together, watched more Netflix than usual and were even willing to participate in a daily workout routine.

As time went on, the novelty wore off. Suddenly the treadmill lost it’s pizzazz, the puzzles weren’t as fun and given the choice they would have watched Netflix and YouTube all day long.

We received texts from friends asking if the kids would be able to come over to play. They were noticing other kids in the neighbourhood getting together in close proximity, having sleepovers and playing contact sports with each other. They were starting to question this whole isolation thing.

They were missing their old life. They missed their friends and family, and wanted to play soccer with their team. They wanted to get out of these four walls and participate in the world again.

They didn’t understand why they couldn’t do those things if ‘everyone else is doing it.’

It became increasingly harder to get our kids to buy into the stay home guidelines when so many people around them didn’t seem to be doing the same.

Many of the same kids who would normally be sitting in class together had shifted to hanging around together outside all afternoon, and my kids were feeling slighted because we wouldn’t allow them.

How do we explain to our kids why it’s important to follow the recommendations when they weren’t necessarily seeing the repercussions of not following them?

“Fear of judgement is real — other parents have definitely passed judgment on us for being so tough with our physical distancing rules.”

We tried to help them see that though they were noticing the few families that were not practicing physical distancing, most people were in fact following the guidelines. We tried to help them understand the risks involved in not following the recommendations laid out for us. We pointed out that people were still getting very sick and many were dying from this illness. We explained what flattening the curve meant. We tried to help them realize that there are many folks who had to go out into the world right now to do their job and that we had the privilege of being able to stay home, so we would do just that to help do our part.

“Basically, we are telling our kids that we are trying to follow the guidelines from the government as best we can,” says one mother I spoke with who is following recommended guidelines and who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of judgement from other parents.

Fear of judgement is real — other parents have definitely passed judgment on us for being so tough with our physical distancing rules. Even some of our kids’ friends have commented to them about how strict we are.

This has been a difficult path to navigate for us. How do we help them understand why we are following recommendations without judging other families for making different choices?

This could in fact be a life lesson in itself.

Every day feels like a test of endurance — find out what this mom really thinks of parenting in a pandemic. And no, she’s not baking bread.

We set rules for our own family — and I know not every family will follow the same ones. But that doesn’t mean that our rules aren’t important or valid. This won’t be the last time our rules don’t align with the rules of their friends, but that doesn’t mean they get to just ignore them.

As the guidelines in Ontario begin to loosen, we are slowly starting to open up our bubble. The guidelines still tell us to keep physical distance from those outside our household and though we remind our kids of the six feet apart rule, we understand that they are kids and they won’t always remember that. While I know how important it is for them to stay distanced, I don’t want them to completely lose the carefree feeling of childhood either so we are trying to find some balance. For that reason, our bubble remains small for now.

We are trying to encourage our kids to be confident in their boundaries; to not be swayed by what others think and to learn to trust both themselves and the experts. That isn’t always easy, but it’s a part of their growth and development. I never thought that this lesson would come in the form of a pandemic, yet here we are. I can only hope that watching us navigate these murky waters helps them as they go out there in the world and are faced with decisions that not everyone agrees with.

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