The 6 Rules I Have My Child Follow When We Go Out in Public Amid COVID-19

As a mother to a young child, my heart breaks knowing that my daughter is missing out on so many things due to precautions surrounding COVID. She can't go to summer camp, attend large birthday parties, or enjoy a movie in a movie theater. She is stuck at home with boring mom.

While I try to keep her home as much as possible to keep her safe, life does need to continue on some level. We still need to run to a store every once in a while, and honestly, we occasionally simply need a change of scene. And while I understand how COVID-19 is contracted and can remember instructions like not putting my hands in my mouth in public or avoiding touching random things in a store, my daughter isn't quite there yet.

Five-year-olds forget instructions easily, they are tempted to touch anything that looks "cool" on a store shelf and enjoy eating snacks in public — all things that are no-nos when trying to keep healthy during this pandemic. Taking my daughter out in public can be stressful and challenging if I want to ensure her safety.

As a result, we leave our neighborhood very rarely and have gotten creative and found ways to make home life more stimulating However, for her occasional ice cream craving or for my desperate need to not fix yet another lunch, I have implemented a set of rules that I follow each time we venture out:

  1. I make sure my purse is packed with cleaning wipes and masks.
  2. I force my daughter to use our bathroom before we leave the home to avoid using public restrooms.
  3. I give my daughter a snack in the car on our way to a public space to avoid her deciding that she is hungry right as we arrive at our destination and inevitably putting her germy hands in her mouth.
  4. Before we enter any indoor space, I remind my daughter to not touch anything and to give people their personal space. I make her repeat the rules before I open the door.
  5. I have my daughter hold my hand to prevent her from being tempted to touch anything or to keep her from walking or standing too close to another person.
  6. We don't meander. We go into a facility with a goal, pay for what we came for, and leave.

We have gotten innovative with how we handle outings. On the occasion that we want to have a lunch outside of the home, instead of eating at a restaurant that allows outdoor seating, we make our own picnic. We order takeout, drive to a scenic spot by our house, pop the trunk of my SUV, and set up a makeshift private picnic for us to enjoy. Instead of lingering outside of the ice cream store when we get a scoop of Rocky Road (our favorite), we get our cones served in a bowl and enjoy them while finding an outdoor spot that is free from others but has an awesome view.

While it is certainly more safe and ideal to stay home 24/7, I fear that the complete isolation is going to take a toll on my child's well-being. I do not bring her with me when I need to run errands and I know the space will be crowded. But for the occasional break during the day, I have found steps that ensure our safety while also making sure that we are being respectful of those who surround us.

Our new normal is still not normal to her, and my daughter needs to be reminded of the rules every time we step away from our home. While it is inconvenient and, quite frankly, annoying to have so many things to think about, I think it is worth the effort to allow my daughter a reprieve from the monotony of being at home . . . even if the "excitement" of the day is running out to buy some toilet paper.