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Q: After sending my child to school, she contracted COVID-19. I’m feeling guilty and overwhelmed. The doctors say it is a mild case and she’s fine, but I can’t get past the fact that this is my fault and I put her in a compromising situation. How can I move on without being as overprotective as I want to be?
The real dilemma here isn’t COVID. The real dilemma is figuring out how to accept the risks, the unknowns, the fears, the failures of parenting.
The best news here is that your daughter will be fine. She will recover. Let’s just focus on that for a moment.
Now, there are definitely some things you can do to mitigate the health risks. Not sending your child to school isn’t necessarily one of them. The guidelines are instructions about how to keep the community as safe as possible. It’s not about sending kids to school or not. It’s about how to wash hands, keep socially distanced, wear a mask, take inventory of your family situation, and decide what you are able to do. It was never about how to avoid COVID or that you somehow failed.
My guess is that you made the best decision for yourself, your family, and your child. I want to point out — and bold! — that there are social and emotional risks of keeping kids at home. Let’s not discount those reasons. Who knows— maybe you did make the very best decision despite the fact that she got COVID. There are simply too many factors here to point to only one as a determining factor.
Once you forgive yourself, there are certain things you can do: you can opt to keep your kid home from school if you’re able to set up remote learning or if you think your child will do fine with homeschooling. Or you can make the very tough decision that many parents are making: after your child has recovered from COVID and tests negative, you can send them back to school and implore them to continue washing their hands, never take off their mask, and do their best to minimize contact with any people and surfaces. Similarly, you’ve taught your child to look both ways before they cross the street, but you can’t control every single driver on the road. As parents, we can’t protect our children from every single risk in the world, all we can do is give them the best information we have to protect them and hope it’ll be enough. Sometimes, it’s not enough. Then we learn, adjust, and try again.
As a parent myself, I really try hard (and often fail!) to focus on the takeaway rather than the hurdle itself. I think it’s probably the point in which the most growth happens. And many professionals, friends, family, and even my kids remind me that they are watching and absorbing how I navigate those said hurdles. There’s never going to be a shortage of hurdles, independent from COVID, but it usually feels better looking at the hurdles as an opportunity to try something different rather than allowing the hurdle to send us down the rabbit hole.
Dr. Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
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