Young families living with confusion and fear during COVID-19

By Reann Fournier, Special to The Record

Families with young children have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic differently than many other groups. Instead of relaxing and dealing with boredom through shutdowns, parents of young children have been dealing with heightened stress, fear, and figuring out how to tame their little ones who can no longer expend energy with their friends.
Stephanie Gauthier, a single mother of a four-year-old daughter, said that it has been difficult. “At first when daycares were shut down, I was working from home and she would be with me, so it was hard to get my work done,” she said. “She would want to go to the park or the playground, or daycare, and I had to tell her we couldn’t because people were sick, which is a hard concept for her to understand.”
Gauthier said that personally, she has been much more stressed than usual, and has noticed that her daughter also has some concerns. “I’m more overwhelmed because I’m concerned about our well-being much more than normal. You worry about an outbreak at daycare, or work, or wherever really,” she said. “My daughter too, she keeps asking why everyone is wearing masks and why she isn’t having to wear one. She’s having a hard time understanding that people could be sick without looking sick and she’s even shied away from people because she’s scared that if some people are sick without us seeing, everyone might be.”
Gauthier mentioned that, in her case, her daughter had much more energy than normal and required more attention than normal. “She’s just had so much energy to expel, and we can’t get it out at the playground or at daycare, so we have to find other ways. We’ve started playing soccer in the backyard and have gone on a lot of walks outside,” she added.
The general consensus among parents has been that through the pandemic, especially now heading back to school, they are more concerned for their children’s and family’s health then normal.
For Patrick McBrine and his family, while there have been difficult times through the pandemic, it has also allowed for them to grow closer. “Having our children home all the time and spending more time together has been nice,” he said. “It has been a good experience for our family relationship, but not so much educationally.”
One of the hardest things for his family has been getting back into a normal routine. “One of my children has had a hard time making the transition back to school because she was very happy being at home,” he said. “Through facetime, she could talk to her friends, she could watch TV, go biking, and play. Every morning now she’s upset because she doesn’t want to go to school.”
McBrine said that they tried to alleviate the pressure from their children throughout this time. “We kind of let them experience this time because they will remember this when they’re 80,” he said.
Gauthier added that, while this pandemic has caused extra stress for parents, she is surprised with the reaction of children. “It’s almost like they’ve been examples for us through all this. Other than my daughter wanting to wear a mask and wanting to hug her friends, she has been adapting and coping well.”
McBrine agreed, saying that his children have mostly handled the changes with grace. “It’s hard dealing with the expectation to keep working the same amount of hours in a day through this,” he said. “We are a culture obsessed with ‘doing’ and one of the things this has taught us is if we stop doing, things will right themselves.”

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