As we settle into life in a pandemic, many families are starting to pull the pieces together to form a new normal. One that balances safety, health, and mental wellbeing. That may be why families are starting to turn to Pandemic Pods.
What Are Pandemic Pods?
When two or three families agree to socialize with one another but no one else. In a pod, families hang out together, often without regard to social distancing—but outside of the pod, they follow recommended face covering and social distancing rules.
Why Pods Make Sense
Families with younger children know that socially distance play-dates options are not realistic. Young children have a difficult time adhering to 6ft separation (let alone understanding what that means) and keeping masks properly in place. However, parents also understand that physical play is fundamental to development.
Medical professionals, including pediatrician Dr. Mary Barsanti-Sekhar, are concerned about the potential negative effects of isolation. “The virus is still out there and in general, the safest thing you can do is stay inside at all times. With that said, I am worried about the mental health, and physical health of children being isolated. This pandemic is causing a rise in anxiety and behavioral issues in children that were not present before.” However, Dr. Barsanti-Sekhar warns, “it needs to be a very cautious balance.”
What To Consider When Choosing A Pod
First and foremost, parents need to have a clear understanding of what’s happening in their city/state/zipcode as it pertains to coronavirus. “Families need to be aware of what the situation is in their immediate area. Are cases rising or falling in your area? Have things stabilized? If those answers are falling and yes, respectively, then forming “pods” is a reasonable thing to think about.” Dr. Barsanti-Sekhar says.
Secondly, pods need to be formed with a strong foundation built on open communication, trust, and aligned approach to precaution. When evaluating if you’re ready to start a pod with another family, here are a few things ask yourself:
- Do you share the same values in safety outside of the pod?
- Are there any high-risk people connected to you or the other family?
- Does everyone actually enjoy hanging out together?
- How many people are you comfortable having in your bubble?
- What rules would you need to be set in place?
- Is there a time commitment that would be required?
- How does child care come into play?
Child Care + Pandemic Pods
Working families may also be looking to forming pods to help cut the cost of necessary child care. Pooling monetary resources for a nanny share has been a common practice for infants and toddlers, but as many summer camps and child care centers have closed or have limited capacity and/or strict restrictions, the practice may bring relief to families with school-aged children.
“If you are introducing a child care provider into your “pod” you need to have an open discussion, just as you had with the families in the pod, about goals and expectations. What are their social distancing practices? How are they limiting their contact with people?” Dr. Barsanti-Sekhar notes.
How Big Should A Pandemic Pod Be?
Dr. Barsanti-Sekhar encourages families to follow the recommendation from experts. “Guidance on groups of 10 people is coming directly from the CDC. That is a good place to start in terms of evaluating how much you should expand your bubble. That said, 1-2 families can hit that number very quickly. Adults are going to be able to maintain social distance. For younger children, distancing is much more difficult. Group setting numbers should be more focused on the number of kids grouping together and 8-10 is right.”
When it comes to deciding whether to expand your family’s bubble, families have to do what’s personally right for them after weighing the risks. “There is no eliminating the risk. It’s about taking steps to decrease the amount of risk as much as possible. Everything is a decision and a calculated risk.” Dr. Barsanti-Sekhar cautions.
This summer it’s also important that pods lean into the ability to be outdoors. Dr. Barsanti-Sekhar says people should try to keep activities outdoors as much as possible.“This disease is primarily spread by close contact and the indoors only amplifies that.”
In the end, Pandemic Pods might be a solution for families who are struggling in isolation. “At this stage, it is going to be necessary for a lot of people to start having the discussion about expanding their bubbles. In fact, it’s probably a good thing for families to start thinking about.”