“We’re going to see this roller coaster effect,” said Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an expert on health care preparedness. “Cases go up, cases go down.”
As a result, it’s helpful for parents to plan for all possible scenarios, Dr. Toner said.
If your child falls ill, for instance, make sure you understand your day care or school policies well in advance. At what point would your child need to be tested for Covid-19? When is it OK to return to school? Rules can vary considerably, but the more you know in advance, the better you can plan.
If you have alternate options for child care — perhaps a couple of trusted babysitters or grandparents who live nearby — speak with them about their willingness and availability to assist in advance of a shutdown, rather than assuming they’ll automatically be free. Will they be able to help out every day? Two times a week? Things can change at the last minute, but it will be reassuring to have a plan should you suddenly need backup.
If your children are attending school or day care in person and become exposed to someone with Covid-19, your family may have to quarantine for 14 days. At that point, you won’t have the option of backup child care because you’ll need to stay away from people who aren’t in your immediate family. Spend some time now thinking about how you’ll get through those 14 days. If you and your partner work, can you create a staggered schedule that allows you both to care for the kids? Ask your employer about flexible working options, like family medical leave or flex time. If your workplace offers sick time, when is it permissible to use it?
As we saw in the spring, child care solutions can be tough to find.
“It’s complicated, and sometimes there are no good answers,” Dr. Toner said.
Cut yourself some slack. The Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit that provides therapy and other services to children and families with mental health and learning disorders, has advice on its website for single parents on how to manage the trifecta of child care, employment and the pandemic, but these tips can be useful to nearly anyone.
One of the recommendations: “Set the parenting bar lower.”
It’s OK if your child is getting more screen time than usual or your go-to lunch has become quesadillas.