• Other Friendship Advice

Friendship, Parenting and COVID

Published: August 13, 2021 | Last Updated: August 13, 2021 By | Reply Continue Reading
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The mix of parenting and COVID can be dicey, exposing differences in values and politics between friends and neighbors.

QUESTION

Hi Irene, 

I have two children. Both boys had major medical issues as babies that have left them with chronic lung issues and makes them very high risk if they were to become ill with Covid-19. We have been very careful and everything we have done has been within CDC guidelines and okayed by our doctors. 

My oldest has thankfully been vaccinated as my husband and I have been as well. But my youngest is still under 12 and cannot be vaccinated. With ADHD and dyslexia, virtual schooling took a toll on all of us. 

With the school year approaching a small group of parents is making a big fuss about mask-wearing at school. One of the parents in this group is a friend and neighbor whose children are friends with my high-risk youngest. She has very suddenly become an “anti-vaxxer” and anti-masks and believes in wild conspiracy theories about vaccines.

She pointed out on social media that her “only responsibility is to HER kids, NOT The Herd.” While I am very pro-vaccine, I would never berate her for not vaccinating. It’s just important to me that the kids mask at school at least until a vaccine is available for children under 12 for the parents that want their child to get it. I reminded her that my child IS “The Herd” but she made it abundantly clear that she “doesn’t care because he was fine to be outside playing with other kids unmasked so it won’t matter if he gets sick.” He was outside, (low risk according to CDC) with the two families we pod-ed with.

I’m heartbroken because if the parenting and COVID roles were reversed, we would have no problem doing this for her kids, even if we didn’t believe in it. I will be seeing her at the bus stop this year and I still love her kids, but I’m not sure how to handle it. I’m not sure I want to be friends with her anymore but I don’t want to make our street an unpleasant or awkward place to live either. What should I do?

Signed, Lucia

ANSWER

Hi Lucia,

I’m so sorry you are dealing with this problem. Motherhood often leads to close and long-lasting friendships with parents of other children that also reap benefits for their kids. However,  friendships between moms also tend to be complicated. 

During ordinary circumstances, parents sometimes discover they have different parenting styles from their friends—leading to disappointment and conflicts. The health risks posed by COVID—coupled with the divisive and volatile political climate—have exacerbated parenting challenges such as the one you describe.

Each of us is navigating uncertain times with changing goalposts, trying to make the best decisions we can for ourselves and our families. Having a child who is especially vulnerable due to an underlying condition certainly raises the risks and requires that you take extra precautions.

It has to be disappointing that your neighborhood friend isn’t sensitive to your concerns. While it’s extremely unlikely that you can change her attitudes towards masks and vaccinations, you may be able to discuss the more circumscribed issue of your child’s vulnerability.

I would try to speak to her one-on-one. Discuss your concerns about your child’s health condition and explain the conclusions that you and your physician have reached. Be specific about the “rules” you’ve established for your family. Remind your friend how much you and your children value your relationship with her family and that you hope she can respect your concerns. It’s worth a try.

Also, keep the conversation private: Avoid the temptation to share your frustrations with other neighbors or mutual acquaintances.

Even if she doesn’t come around, as you suggest, it’s best to avoid bad feelings with neighbors that you see from day to day. Stick to your guns concerning your youngest and remain cordial (albeit more distant) with this woman.

If the youngest is old enough, you will also probably need to explain this dilemma to your children so they understand what’s going on.

Hope this is a bit helpful. There are no easy answers.

Best, Irene

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Category: Child and adolescent friendships, OTHER ADVICE

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