We want our kids to be social beings.
But amid the coronavirus pandemic, the word from health officials all over the world is quite the opposite.
The message is: ‘be anti-social.’
At least in person.
“Usually, we do tell our kids to visit and have fun and socialize,” said Calgary pediatrician Dr. Peter Nieman. “But the problem is this all calls for a different approach. And essentially what pediatricians are saying is, ‘Don’t have playmates over, stay separate as much as possible and don’t socialize.’
“Ideally, it’s about having minimal contract, so the headline here is: ‘Do whatever you can to try and minimize the risk of spreading this virus,’ ” said Nieman, adding that parents should direct themselves to the healthychildren.org
website. “The gurus recommend to keep your kids away from others or keep them at home.”
One of those in the know is Ellen Percival, the longtime publisher/editor-in-chief of Calgary’s Child magazine, who is quick to tell Calgarians to have children practise social distancing just as adults have been asked to do.
“Remind them and yourselves that you can keep yourself safe if you follow the rules,” Percival said. “Unfortunately, for now, that physical distance that we need . . . to keep each other safe precludes playdates.”
So playdates are out.
“We know that this virus can live on plastics and metals for up to three days,” Percival said. “We’re seeing Cochrane has already taken that step (to close playgrounds as of Saturday). Very likely we might see the same recommendations coming to us.”
Meanwhile, Percival says, it’s best to err on the side of caution and follow the lead of other communities until we get direction from our chief medical officer.
That means staying away from playgrounds.
“Let’s paint a scenario,” said Nieman. “Take a beautiful day like (Sunday) at the playground and there’s no one else there, so there’s no other kid there to infect them. But, apparently, this virus can stick to surfaces, too, and that’s a problem.”
Percival says it’s best to gather yourself and the requisite information before sitting down to explain to your children the situation at hand.
“That will help kids feel a little bit more under control,” Percival said. “And it will help you as a parent to explain to kids that the playground is just not the right place to go right now.”
Instead, adds Percival, kids can talk on the phone with friends.
Or FaceTime with buddies.
The calgaryschild.com website also has plenty of innovative ideas to help kids stay busy in a safe manner inside or outside the house.
Or better yet, make the most of the situation by spending time with family in the home, while, of course, maintaining that social barrier.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade — spend time together, make good memories and laugh,” said Nieman. “And it’s good to go out and soak up the sun.
“But, yes . . . avoid contact. Unusual times call for unusual advice.”
So with that in mind, Nieman has guidance about what we should do to protect our kids during this pandemic.
“Feed your children healthy food to boost the immunity naturally,” Dr. Nieman said. “That’s usually food rich in colour, especially dark, dark berries. They have a lot of antioxidants and vitamins and nutrients. If there’s any time to focus on doing one’s best to get fruits and vegetables into our kids, certainly this has to be that time.”
Nieman lists a few go-to staples, such as apples, oranges, pears, mangoes, bananas and berries.
“Pulverize and disguise it and camouflage the taste — like with Greek yogurt — and get it into them,” Nieman said. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
And in these times, we should heed whatever advice that can help us keep our children healthy.
“Gurus and the people who should know about infectious diseases are saying, ‘Shucks, guys, we actually don’t know. We’re learning with you as we go along,’” Nieman added. “At first, it was the vulnerable people, but we’re seeing more and more those articles that indicate younger people are vulnerable.”