In 2020, your kids spent months isolated away from their friends with only siblings and parents around for entertainment. If your family had a learning or friend "pod," perhaps they knew one or two peers who were allowed to socialize with them on occasion. Either way, interactions with those outside the immediate family have been greatly affected by the pandemic.
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Most families are on the brink of returning to some sense of normalcy with schools open again, however, a recent increase in COVID case numbers has left parents with questions about how to navigate their kids' social lives.
If you aren't sure about how to handle invites or what the proper etiquette is for playdates these days, consider the following:
Get Clear About What You Are & Are Not Comfortable With
Before you approach another parent about setting up a playdate, get a solid idea of what you are and are not comfortable with when inviting children and/or their families over to play. Then set clear guidelines and boundaries for your own family. Parents have varying views, approaches and comfort levels when it comes to how they are navigating their family's safety and socialization with COVID infection rates on the rise. Do not wait for the moment you are inviting a child to meet for a playdate to make big decisions about what you expect from play partners and their parents. Remember, you are inviting friends over to socialize and have fun, not for a debate.
Take it OutdoorsWith the warm weather, consider taking the kids to a park or other open area where they can run and breathe the fresh air. The CDC and health officials recommend keeping playdates outdoors. This can alleviate any concerns about poorly ventilated areas.
Have a Pre-Playdate Chat About Health Risks & Protective Measures
The following are some routine questions to ask, depending on your personal approach to COVID safety. They will help you determine with whom you wish to plan playdates and what those playdates will look like:
• Have any members of your family been in contact with someone who had COVID symptoms? If so, how long ago?
• Have your children displayed any of the COVID symptoms in the last couple of days?
• Does your child have, or have they recently run a fever?
• Are there any members of your own family that are high risk or vulnerable?
• Does your child feel comfortable wearing a mask?
• Have you been vaccinated?
The answers to these questions will help you assess your comfort level with the potential playdate partner. If their answers align with your family's boundaries and expectations, you can move forward with planning a playdate. If they don't, simply tell them that you are more comfortable waiting a bit longer before engaging in an in-person hangout. Consider offering a virtual playtime for your kiddos instead. Face Time and Zoom continue to be essential tools for helping kids connect even if it's just for a short "hello!"
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General Playdate Etiquette
Sometimes it is hard to remember that playdates should be about the kids. Parents of the playdate parties involved are not necessarily besties. If you find that there are differing views on COVID and vaccinations between the two parties, try to keep the conversation minimal and stick with the basics. There's no need for opinionated discussions here. As COVID regulations loosen, your child's social circle will too. What's important is that everyone involved is respected and feels comfortable with the arrangement.
If you agree to a playdate with a child whose family has different boundaries than yours, make sure to honor those boundaries. If they always require masks to be worn, honor that for your child's sake and for theirs. Remember, eventually, COVID restrictions will be gone. You don't want to be the cause of your child's fractured friendship circle!
Keep up with the CDC's COVID safety guidelines at cdc.gov. Simple routines like hand washing, outdoor play and monitoring for symptoms go a long way towards keeping everyone healthy and connected.
Note: At the time this article was researched and written, all of the information included was up to date with the CDC's COVID safety recommendations. Please check the CDC's website for updates and changes that may have taken place since publication.