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"The invitation was retracted when they got a better offer." The problem with NSW's 'friends bubble'.

The NSW government's new 'friends bubble' rule means that children under 18 years old can now form a bubble to visit two friends in their homes. 

While many kids are celebrating the new rule, many parents are feeling overwhelmed or upset on behalf of disappointed family members.

I was initially thrilled that my 11-year-old son Toby could see one of his friends at their place or at ours. He has been understandably bored; stuck at home as my husband Jules and I manage the work and 'holiday' juggle as best we can. 

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But as Jules and I spoke about who we would 'bubble up' with and how we would make it work, we wondered whether to even tell our son. We needed to know if the parents were double-vaccinated and which friends to choose, and it all felt very awkward.

Eventually we asked only one friend, as we know the family well. Our son was thrilled to see his mate and play some ping pong at his house. 

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But for many other parents, the decision about who and how to ask about forming a 'friends bubble' has been much more challenging. 

Sally*, a mum-of-four and former teacher, said she is choosing to reject the whole 'friends bubble' concept entirely.

"I’ve always discouraged my children from ranking their friends," Sally says.

"We avoid language such as best/second best friend, and always try to be as inclusive as possible. I’m just not going to ask my children to rank their friends; it’s not something I’m comfortable with and we won’t be doing it."

Sally says that friends asked her kids to be part of various bubbles, but she finds it upsetting to think of all the kids who will be left out.

"A friend’s child had their invitation to a bubble retracted after the friend got a 'better offer'. For many kids who already have fragile mental health this lockdown, being left out of a friendship bubble could feel all too much."

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After dealing with her own upset tween daughter, mum-of-three Caroline* knows just how painful being left out can be.

"My daughter’s friend sent her photos with another friend and captions saying, 'Best day ever.' Firstly, it really hurt her feelings being left out, and secondly, I know the mum hasn’t had her second vaccination yet. 

"My son has a bubble with one friend whose family I am comfortable with, but how do we all agree on a third kid? It’s a minefield!"

The difficulty of juggling the bubbles of multiple kids is proving a real problem in many households. 

Mum-of-two Natalie* told me she wishes she had never told her children about the friends bubble. While her eldest son is happy, her younger son is miserable.

"It’s been a nightmare for our family," Natalie says.

"My eldest son’s first choice was a 'no' because his parents are not yet vaccinated and my younger son was then snubbed by his friend because this particular boy had 'so many' [friend bubble] requests!

"While my eldest now has playdates booked all week, my youngest is terribly upset because he says he has no friends and everyone else is busy seeing theirs.

"It was a well-intentioned idea, but I feel so emotionally exhausted and I did not predict how this was going to play out. If I had the time again, I would not have told the kids [about the friends bubble] at all."

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Friendship disputes aside, it's also proving awkward for parents who don’t know their kids' friends or families, as mum Cate* points out.

"My daughter wants to ask a friend to be in her bubble, but I don’t know this girl or her family. Is it appropriate the first time I meet them to ask who lives in their home, and could I please see proof of their vaccination certificates?"

While checking up on the vaccination status of other parents is one weird dilemma we never thought we’d have, another is whether the kids' friends live within your LGA.

Newcastle based mum-of-two Kim* had some difficulty explaining the LGA rule to her almost five-year-old.

"It was really hard to try to explain the reasons one of my son's besties couldn’t come over because they are in a different LGA and live too far away!"

One mum who was happy about the friends bubble rule made a lightning quick decision on behalf of her two daughters as soon as she heard the news.

"I immediately messaged two mums I know to have 'dibs' on their kids. My eldest has two besties, so it was easy, while my youngest had no choice - she can play with the little sister! 

"My mum friends are happy and my kids are excited - so it worked out well for us."

Are you and your kids happy about the friends bubble? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

*While these women are known to Mamamia, we have changed their names for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Canva/Getty

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