Life has changed for everyone in the last twelve months. We've all been isolated in one way or another. In Sydney, we've had lockdowns and closed state borders separating us from loved ones. Some of our toddler and preschooler classes have been canceled and others are running with restrictions. When attending a class it's been relatively easy for us to follow new requirements (check-in, hand sanitiser, social distancing) but it's been harder to navigate playdates where they are no rules.
In the Montessori classic The Joyful Child, author Susan Stephenson tells us that "Gregariousness (being with others)" is a child's basic need and "When the needs are not met, some children will exhibit temper tantrums, anger, sadness, excessive violence or shyness, inability to concentrate and so on." Playdates can be a really special time for children to be with others, especially for children who do not attend school and/or don't have siblings at home. Perhaps to be with others is a real, valid, and fundamental need for all of us.
Are you still having playdates? What do they look like?
During the pandemic, during non-lockdown periods our playdates have:
- followed public health guidelines.
- been only with good friends, a pandemic doesn't feel like the right time to be meeting with people we don't know well.
- been outside - mostly at parks or the beach, we meet outside and stay outside.
- been away from playgrounds if they are crowded.
- been sometimes on walking trails or on bike rides for the older kids.
- been recorded by noting the time, date, location, and who was there in a diary for potential contact tracing.
- not occurred if we or our close contacts are not well or have any, even mild symptoms.
- not occurred if we or our close contacts have been in a government identified case location.
- not occurred in areas with known and active cases (NSW map here), if there were active cases in our area I would reassess our risk.
- not involved sharing of food or toys, we generally don't bring toys other than a ball.
- involved good hygiene including washing hands and/or sanitising hands before eating, after playing, in the car before driving home, and when arriving back at home.
- involved open communication and a little planning. I always talk to other parents before the playdate and share my concerns and anxieties. Honest and open communication is important in mitigating risk.
- involved a brief risk assessment. Our local (state) case numbers are low and have at times been zero, it's useful to stay up to date with case numbers and locations and follow government and health department requirements.
This is not at all a how-to but a discussion that I would love for you to join about how you are managing. The pandemic has affected us all differently depending on where we live, our health, our local numbers, who we live with including vulnerable populations, and our own anxiety levels. We all want our children to have their social and emotional needs met while keeping everyone healthy and safe. How are you connecting with other parents? Playdates give me the opportunity to open up to other parents in a way I wouldn't over the phone, facetime, or zoom, but it's harder now than ever to make space for our own friendships.
Articles I've found useful (all from the US) include:
- How Kids Can Have Safe Playdates During Coronavirus: A kids ability to socialize with peers is key in helping them alleviate anxiety at NYMetroParents. This includes a few good not-in-person playdate ideas.
- Coronavirus outbreak and kids: Advice on playdates, social distancing, and healthy behaviors to help prevent infection at Harvard Publishing.
- Should I let my child have a playdate during COVID-19? Children, playdates and coronavirus: What parents should know at Children's Health.
- ‘Just a Small Play Date’? You Still Need to Be Careful at The New York Times.
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