Family Health

Balancing COVID-19 Safety With Summer Fun for the Kids

Published: June 26, 2020

Safe Summer Strategies

A lot of parents are wondering what’s safe and what’s not for their kids this summer. It’s important to remember that our best tools to slow the spread of COVID-19 are the same things you’ve been hearing about for months: 

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick or people outside your home
  • Washing your hands often
  • Wearing a cloth mask in public settings
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces frequently
  • Continually monitoring your family’s health and acting accordingly if symptoms develop

All that said, we’re social creatures with a need to be around others. For all but the most introverted of us, staying home without outside contact isn’t feasible or good for our mental health.

There is some good news. In many cases, families and friends can still get together. It may just look a little different: keeping it outdoors, wearing masks when you’re not eating and taking deliberate steps to keep a physical distance. Think of this summer as the perfect opportunity to invest in your yard by getting a fire pit for s’mores on demand, buying or making that cornhole set you always wanted or setting up a projector for a “drive-in” movie night.

As for children, video chats can only do so much to satisfy the need for friendship. You know your kids better than anyone. Talk to them about the risks of COVID-19 and safety precautions. If they’re mature enough to respect distancing guidelines, there are activities they may be able to do with equally mature friends. Think bike riding, hiking or other outdoor activities that don’t involve close contact or sharing toys. Consider having your child wear a cloth face covering, and be sure to have them wash their hands after playing.

I know what you’re thinking: Masks on kids? Really? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children over 2 wear cloth face coverings when they’re in public places where they can’t stay 6 feet from others. The AAP addresses the ins and outs of that recommendation in this FAQ. The thing to remember is that COVID-19 can be spread by infected people who lack symptoms or aren’t experiencing them yet, and wearing a cloth face covering may help slow the spread.

Road Trip? Or Not

For so many of us, summer is synonymous with vacation, road trips or family reunions. Anyone with kids knows how much more planning and preparation is necessary to take a trip outside your local community. With COVID-19, there’s even more to think about, including: 

  • Is COVID-19 spreading in your community?
  • Is COVID-19 spreading where you’re going?
  • Are you or those you’re traveling with likely to suffer serious complications from COVID-19?
  • Are you visiting someone who is likely to suffer serious complications from COVID-19?

What it really boils down to is whether you’re putting yourself, your family or others at risk. And right now everyone’s priority should be doing what they can to protect the most vulnerable among us, including older adults and people with chronic conditions.

Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, but if you do plan to travel, be honest with yourself. 

With a little more preparation, could you minimize stops on a road trip? Could a flight to a vacation hot spot be replaced with a road trip to a less crowded state park? As much as you’d love to visit Grandma or get all the cousins together, is the risk worth it? Everyone’s circumstances are different, and the COVID-19 situation is constantly evolving, but there may be ways to see the people you want to see or scratch the itch to travel while still following safety guidelines.

Doing Your Part

The future of COVID-19 is uncertain, but it’s safe to say we’ll be living with the pandemic for several months to come. Following every health recommendation to a T may not be realistic. Many parents don’t have the option of keeping their kids home from day care or during trips to the store. And kids will be kids, sometimes sharing hugs, toys and snacks. But simply recognizing what you can do to reduce your family’s risk this summer is an important step in keeping everyone safe. 

Remember: Like everything else in parenting, you don’t have to be perfect. You just need to do your best.

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About the Author

Dr. Misty Janssen, a family medicine physician at Methodist Physicians Clinic, says that when a patient visits her, they can expect kindness, respect and a teammate on their health journey.

“I want them to know that I have their best interests at heart,” she said. “I have their back.”

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