How do we plan our life for the next few months?
Our family is having the same conversation that many of you are having right now. How do we decide who we can see, when we can travel, what should we do about school, what about grandparents….?
Before diving into this overwhelming series of questions, I would invite you to find a moment to read this when the kids are finally asleep and you have a moment to quiet your strategic mind just a bit. While I will try to tackle some of the specific questions in what follows, at the end of the day, you will have to check in with something less strategic and more intuitive. Something less based on what your brain is telling you that you should do or have to do and more based on what your heart or your gut is telling you is the right thing to do. Something less related to short sighted wants and more related to a patient, longer term view of what is best for you and your family as well as your community. I sometimes find that when I really do let go of my to do list and all the plans I have, and actually listen to my heart’s intuition, it tells me something I didn’t want to hear but eventually am glad that I did.
OK, I just felt the need to take a deep breath.
Some questions to start with.
In some ways, everything is falling apart for everyone right now. There is a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, civil and political unrest and societal reckoning with centuries of systemic racism. All this on top of the turmoil already present in the world before 2020 arrived.
The first question must be, “How much is my own life in a state of crisis right now?”.
If the answer is that you and your family are in a major personal crisis right now, your first priority must be basic survival. That crisis may be physical or mental health related, job loss, housing or food insecurity or any number of other obstacles. If you find yourself in this situation:
You may have no choice but to seek out childcare. If you can secure a daycare situation that you are comfortable with, that may be the best option. The state of Colorado has set guidelines for daycare providers that you can read through and ask your daycare about.
If daycare is not an option, and a grandparent or other relative is able to provide childcare, this may be necessary. If you are considering the risk for a possible caretaker, the state issued a helpful decision tree to consider when weighing that choice. If that caretaker is high risk, you and that grandparent will have to sit with that and ultimately follow your hearts to make that decision
School: Many school districts are moving toward an option for full-time in-person schooling. This may be the only viable option for you and your family. This may also be the best option for your child depending on their optimal learning style. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the return to in-person learning with steps taken to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in the school setting and the need for school districts to adapt to changing local conditions.
Know that you can always reach out to your provider at HIP and consider making a telemedicine or in person appointment. We may be able to offer some helpful suggestions or just provide a caring ear to walk with you as you make those decisions.
If the answer to, “How much is my own life in a state of crisis right now?”, is not really much of a crisis at all, you may have the ability to make some different decisions.
Consider the risk of your plans. Colorado has issued some guidelines to help evaluate common activities and travel plans.
Be a part of the 65%: The Colorado Department of Public Health has put out projections based on the efficiency of our collective social distancing efforts. If we, as a community can reach the 60-65% efficiency, many lives could be saved by decreasing overall infection numbers and maintaining hospital and ICU capacity for new patients. Do you have the capacity to increase your social distancing efficiency as a family? How do you see your role in the community during this pandemic?
Hanging out with friends: Having a small cohort of friends or a “quaranTEAM” can really decrease the spread of COVID-19 and can make tracing easier if someone tests positive. Having a group of a few friends whose families are on the same page and are otherwise practicing good social distancing is ideal. Having that team hang out outside and wear masks when possible (not for kids under 2) is helpful. Creating a rule where they don’t share food or drinks (preferably they don’t hang out with food or drinks, especially for younger kids).
Summer camp: If you have the option for the camp to come to you, which some of them have offered that lowers the risk. Some camps are sending a counselor to a house with a group of a few kids. If you are considering a camp that hasn’t made major modifications to decrease the risk of spread, the better option may be to skip that camp this year.
Travel: The best option this summer is traveling by car somewhere that you can practice good social distancing (camping or renting a house where you can do the cooking). Airline travel with your family should really be carefully weighed, taking into consideration any higher risk immediate family members or those that you might be visiting. Here again, your heart will have to guide you in the end.
Helping your kids find the beauty in the pause: This may be the summer and fall that you have almost nothing scheduled for your kids. How can you transform that sense of loss for all the things you had planned into an opportunity to find the beauty and wonder in the mundane of your home, your yard, your neighborhood park? Can this be an opportunity to awaken the imagination in yourself and your children?
School: Many school districts are moving toward an option for full-time in-person schooling or learning from home. The right choice for your family really depends on your child’s learning style. If you feel your student thrived with an in-home learning setup and that is their preferred option, that may be the best option for them this fall. If you are in a position to support that learning environment at home, that may be a reasonable option for your student and help the community by decreasing the numbers of students at school. If your student and family are at low health risk and would benefit from in-person instruction, that is a reasonable choice. Again, the AAP guidelines provide some framework for this.
Daycare: Is this confluence of moments an opportunity to reimagine how you have structured your family schedule? Is there a way to decrease your reliance on traditional daycare settings for your young child? With regulations around temperature checks and keeping sick children home, many families will be forced into a more flexible plan with their work. Would it be better for your family to proactively pull back from daycare for the near future? The answer for your family may be no, but it is worth asking the question with this new lens that the pandemic has created.
What about grandparents meeting their newborn grandchild. I’ll leave this one to this opinion piece written by a pediatrician. I think he gives sound advice on this question
These decisions are nuanced and individual. While it is important to gather data and opinions from people you trust, ultimately you will be forced to weigh options whose pros and cons are difficult to quantify. That is when your heart and intuition will have to come in as a parent and community member. The answer may be buried a bit beneath the layers of stress, but it is there, and I believe you will know it when you find it.
Know that your HIP family is here to support you.
With gratitude for all you’re doing to support your kids and your community,