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  • Dr. Rachel Kramer

June 14: Different Families Make Different Choices

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

As some restrictions were lifted this week, I spoke with many families about the tension created when children and adolescents become aware that different families are following different sets of rules around how to approach social distancing.  During the pandemic, each family has its own level of vulnerability and every family has a unique level of risk tolerance.  Some households might include a family member with a chronic illness.  Families who interact with grandparents might choose to be particularly cautious about allowing children to interact with peers.  While it may be tempting for children (or adults) to judge another family’s choices, this challenging situation that can also be used as a springboard to teach children about empathy. 

I suggest you begin by empathizing with your child’s position, for example:

· “I hear you saying that we’re the only family that makes kids wear a mask.  It looks like you’re really angry about that.”

· “Seems like you’re really frustrated that we won’t let you go to an indoor party.”

· “I know this is so hard.”

Next you can provide some information about why other families might be following different rules than your family:

· “Different families make different choices, which can feel really hard.”

· “We don’t have all of the information about why they are making that choice.  We are trying to make the best decisions for our family, and they will make the best decision for their family.”

· “I know you really wish that things were different, and I do, too.  I wish you could see all of your friends whenever you want to.  Right now it feel safe for us to follow these rules, and we need to respect other family’s rules even if they are different than ours.”

· “Let’s think about some reasons that another family might make a different choice than ours.  What ideas do you have about that?”

These conversations won’t take away the anger, frustration, or sadness your child may feel about needing to follow different rules than some of their peers, but feeling truly heard and receiving your compassion and understanding will provide some solace during a really difficult time.

On another note, school has ended for some schools and will be ending for almost everyone this week.  While online summer program options won’t replace the fun of summer camp, they might provide some needed structure for part of each week.  Here are a couple of options:

· TeenLife has compiled a broad array of summer programs, mostly for middle school and high school students.

· Harvard Museum of Natural History is offering Summer Science weeks for children entering grades 1-4.

· Real Simple and Common Sense Media have both compiled lists of online summer programs.

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