Should Parents Let Their Kids Have Play Dates During The Pandemic?

By now, your child is probably has gotten used to the idea of home schooling and distance learning (even if you’re still adapting to it). But there still might be one component that your kid is craving — and that’s socialization. In short, your kid misses their friends and wants to see them. Thing is, social distancing is probably putting a major crimp in your child’s social life. If your child is begging and pleading, should parents let their kids have play dates during the pandemic?

If you thought that letting your child have a friend over (even for an hour) isn’t going to hurt anyone, think again. While you could, in theory, host a play date with a willing parent (good luck finding one now though), it’s really not the best idea. “At this time, play dates are officially being discouraged,” says Dr. Sharyn N. Lewin, MD, FACS, FACOG, a board-certified gynecologic oncologist and Founder of The Lewin Fund. After all, with people being encouraged to maintain at least six feet of space between each other, how are you going to keep little kiddos apart who simply just want to hug each other and play together?

For younger children, the idea of not being able to see their friends still might be confusing. That’s when it’s important to speak to your child and let them know (in a non-scary way, of course) that, for now, play dates are being postponed. Like so many things in parenting, it’s all how you present the information that can help (or harm) your child. “I would redirect the conversation and explain that because of a serious flu, we are staying home, not going to school, and unfortunately, can’t invite friends over,” says Dr. Lewin. “That’s how I explain it to my preschooler and it isn’t scary.”

So what do you do when your kiddo is clamoring for a get together with their bestie because they’re sooooo bored? That’s when you have to get crafty as a parent—literally. “It is important to engage children in books, learning activities, home schooling, puzzles, etc., to keep them stimulated,” advises Dr. Lewin. “If you have a back yard, they should certainly get fresh air or get fresh air away from people at another outside location.”

And if all else fails, you can always set up a meeting where the kids can play with each other online. “You can consider a virtual play date via the web as an alternative,” says Dr. Lewin. For example, your kid can take out some of their favorite toys and do a show-and-tell with their friend, talk about what’s going on, or even share snack time together.

Although the Coronavirus has completely changed our daily lives, you can still find ways for your child to keep the connection to their friends. While it might take some ingenuity and resourcefulness, the most important thing is that kids can still stay social even if they’re far apart.

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