How Do You Decide if Children Can Play Together Again?

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Don’t frame it so that the more restrictive parent is the bad guy, and try for an honest conversation that respects differences of opinion. Remember that other parents may have reasons you don’t know about to be more wary of possible infections. That’s what it means to present a consistent message to a child: This is about keeping everyone safe, and sometimes that means waiting a little longer. And if there’s going to be a play date with limitations, make sure the child understands what those limitations are, and rehearse the possible activities.

Families should not feel pressure to change their rules, even if they are living in areas that are opening up. If there is a vulnerable adult — or child — in the home, they may want to be more strict, rather than less strict, as others relax their restrictions. And not all children — or adolescents — are necessarily pushing for those in-person social contacts. We need to give each other time, and treat each other gently.

Take it step by step, Dr. Goza said. Start with carefully chosen contacts, and don’t jump right to large gatherings. “You spent all this time trying to isolate and social distance,” she said. “You don’t want to go out there and just blow it all.” The parents she’s talked to, she said, have been very conscientious, planning out social encounters with neighbors getting together outside for a barbecue.

Dr. Goza advised that parents encourage children to spend their time together outside, she said, to wear masks, to wash their hands regularly. Pools are probably relatively safe, she said, according to current thinking about transmission, but supervision is important, both because of water safety and to try to prevent kids from being too close together.

What about when family and friends disagree? “I say, if they don’t wear masks, I would try not to be in an enclosed place,” Dr. Goza said. “Wear a mask yourself, say, ‘I respect your opinion but we feel like we want to keep a bit of distance.’”

To reduce risk, everyone’s No. 1 piece of advice is that if there is going to be socializing, keep it outdoors as much as possible. Keep the time periods limited — maybe a short session outside in the afternoon, rather than a sleepover. Encourage hand-washing, send children with hand sanitizer, and yes, make it clear beforehand that masks are to be worn. If there’s going to be a meal together, meaning that masks will come off, kids need to be sitting far enough apart.

But if you decide you’re ready to relax your isolation, don’t expect the impossible. Dr. Navsaria cautioned parents “not to expect 100 percent hand hygiene and proper mask use, because children are children, and even older kids that quote unquote should know better.”

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