Should you let your children play with others?


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As more and more schools close around the world, parents are wrestling with what their children can and can’t do. Should your child go out and play with friends? Or does social distancing mean an end to their playtime?

If Katherine Wilson could go back and change anything, she says she wouldn’t have had that family dinner at the neighbours’ home.

Two weeks ago, when Covid-19 was spreading throughout Italy but the government had not yet mandated that people stay in their homes, the mum of two teenagers in Rome got an invitation to a small dinner party with two other families.

“My husband and I thought oh we’re in somebody’s apartment, it’s not like it’s some big gathering,” she tells the BBC.

At the time, Ms Wilson, an American writer who is married to an Italian, says her and many other mums were treating the recent school closures as an extended holiday.

“It’s like: ‘Oh this is great, it’s kind of like a little vacation, let’s go to that park we never get to go to.'”

But in hindsight, after seeing how the virus has ravaged the country, she says she wishes she had been more proactive about putting limits on her family’s movements.

“It was kind of foolhardy to go. But it felt like saying no would have been kind of extreme.”

A few days later, the Italian government issued a total lockdown. That means no parks, and no playdates.

“In a way the total lockdown is easier than the uncertainty of having to make decisions that were challenged by your kids, challenged by your friends,” she says.

“There was a good bit of judgement, both for people who were considered too extreme, and people who were considered to be taking this too lightly.”

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Katherine Wilson

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The Wilson family

Around the world, many parents are finding themselves confused like Ms Wilson was, about what the rules are for playtime and socialisation.

On the one hand, governments may not have imposed lockdowns restricting people’s movement. But on the other, health officials say social distancing is necessary to stop the spread of the disease.

Is a game of tennis okay? A trip to the local playground? A play date at a friend’s house?

Dr Keri Althoff, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, says social distancing requires everyone – children and adults – to stay six feet (two metres) apart at all times. That means no sports like basketball or football.

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