'I cancelled all my daughters' playdates this weekend. It was the last cruel blow for them.'

When the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the regional city I live in this week, my husband and I made the decision we had been putting off for weeks.

We decided to withdraw our two primary school-aged girls from school for the foreseeable future.

Along with this, we made some other decisions – to stop their extracurricular activities, including swimming lessons, and to cancel all playdates that they had organised for the upcoming Easter holidays, as well as two they had scheduled for this weekend.

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Unsurprisingly, none of these choices made on our end were well received on my children’s end – not school and especially not the playdates that they had been asking for so long to have.

There were tears – lots of them, desperate pleading for us to reconsider, the question “why?” was asked several times and the eventual evaluation, “it’s not fair,” was declared when they realised we weren’t going to backtrack.

And I get it, I totally understand. It is unfair. And to be quite honest I wanted to join in and cry with them. 

My girls are seven and five years old. They are kids who want to play, who want to learn, who want to go places, on adventures that aren’t confined to their house walls and their backyard. They are children who, like the majority, just want to see their friends and have fun. 

They are lovers of routine and familiar faces and now in a matter of weeks, days, even hours, it has all been removed from them. And despite trying to talk with them about it, it is still exceptionally hard – for all of us.

But it was cancelling this weekend’s playdates that was for my two girls, the last cruel blow – the final act that removed all normalcy from their life.

coronavirus kids school
"It was cancelling this weekend’s playdates that was for my two girls, the last cruel blow, the final act that removed all normalcy from their life." Image: Supplied.

While I am aware I probably sound dramatic, I also know that unfortunately in this current climate, in our family at least, this one sequence of decisions made a huge impact on our children emotionally and was the catalyst that made them realise how different the world is right now.

While saying no more playdates was a difficult decision to make and to execute, saying no was the right thing for our family and really the right thing, I believe, for all of us to do; because it’s not just about them, it is about all of us and our kids need to do their part too. 

As we are acutely aware, it is when these measures of self-isolation or social distancing are not taken, or when they ignored for too long, that this deadly virus spreads - and often to the most vulnerable.

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We also know that although most healthy children aren’t the most physically affected by coronavirus, they can spread it. To their grandparents and the elderly, or to other people in our community with pre-existing health conditions. It is our duty as parents to prevent this from happening. 

With playdates often occurring at playgrounds, or high-touch areas like other children’s homes where the same space, objects and games are shared physically, they are obvious environments for COVID-19 to spread.

Saying no to playdates is a hard decision to make, and a harder one to receive as a child, but it is a necessary evil of now. 

On the bright side, playdates can still be held in alternative ways, such as Facetime or Skype (something I have already arranged - or should I say been constantly nagged about - for this weekend), allowing kids to keep their important social connections and themselves and others healthy and safe.

Shona Hendley, Mother of Goats, Cats and Humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education and is a passionate animal lover and advocate. You can follow her on Instagram @shonamarion.

Read more on COVID-19

The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. 

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

Featured image: Supplied.