- The novel coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, is spreading rapidly worldwide.
- Those exposed to an infected person are generally required to undergo a 14-day quarantine to see if symptoms develop during the incubation period.
- People under quarantine are expected to maintain a distance of about six feet from one another.
- Parents say not being able to hug or kiss their children to comfort them – or to celebrate happy occasions – is one of the most challenging aspects of being quarantined.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On Sunday morning, Dan Harelick cracked open the door to his youngest daughter’s bedroom, just barely poked his head in and wished his 13-year-old, Dahlia, a happy birthday.
There were no hugs or kisses or exchanging of gifts. Harelick couldn’t even make his daughter her favourite celebratory breakfast – French toast.
After the father of four greeted Dahlia, he quickly shut the door.
“I left before the tears would come to my eyes,” Harelick told Insider.
Harelick and his daughter have been under quarantine in their home in Riverdale, New York since March 2 due to possible exposure to coronavirus. A ninth grader at SAR Academy, a private Jewish school, tested positive for the disease. Harelick is an art teacher at SAR and Dahlia is a seventh grader there.
The father and daughter are among thousands of people under quarantine in New York, which has declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus. The virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, has infected more than 125,000 people worldwide and more than 4,600 people have died from it.
To slow the spread of the disease, health officials implement 14-day self-quarantines for people who’ve had contact with someone who has COVID-19. The aim is to see if symptoms develop during that incubation period. While under quarantine, all members of a household – those who have been exposed and those who haven’t – are expected to engage in “social distancing.”
That means people need to stay about six feet away from one another. It’s especially important to do within homes since 83% of coronavirus clustering occurs in families. Limiting physical interactions helps because the disease is transmitted from close contact or through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Quarantined parents say not being able to hug their children is a major challenge
Parents say they appreciate the precautions. But they’re also frustrated and sad, because they can’t hug or kiss their children or spouses during a time when family members especially need comforting. While all parents Insider spoke to agree that these physical restrictions are challenging to adhere to, they say it’s most difficult when otherwise happy occasions come up and when there are younger children at home who can’t grasp what a global pandemic is.
“It’s depressing,” Harelick said. “I can’t hug anybody in my family.”
Sunday was particularly hard for the Harelick family since Dahlia’s birthday was essentially cancelled.
“It’s not a perfect solution,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said of the social distancing measures. “We’re in containment mode. What can we do to minimise the damage?”
It’s not always realistic for family members to maintain a safe distance
While trying to keep a safe distance is important, Schaffner acknowledged that it’s not always feasible.
“We live in the real world and we have to be very attentive to our children, particularly our young children,” Schaffner said. “When you’re in a home, there are going to be breaks in technique. We should do the best we can and not punish ourselves if we have the occasional slip-up.”
Tamar Weinberg, a mother of four who resides in New Rochelle, New York and has been under quarantine since March 2, said she faces this struggle every day.
“My 3-year-old is always a little bit needy,” Weinberg told Insider. “When he cries, I feel like I have to grab him and just pull him close.”
It’s been especially challenging for the Weinbergs since the children are thrilled to have their dad home all the time and want to soak up his attention. Prior to the quarantine, the Weinberg children would sometimes go days without even seeing their father, who’s an engineer, and often got home after they had gone to bed.
Weinberg said she and her husband are doing the best they can to maintain a safe distance, but it’s not always possible.
“My children come first,” Weinberg said. “Worst comes to worst, we’re sick and they’re sick. If I have to make some sacrifices to make sure my child is feeling good in the moment, I might end up paying the price later. As a parent, I am willing to do that.”
Instead of giving a hug, a parent can tap a child’s elbow
To help quarantined families cope with the restrictions, Schaffner recommends finding “safer” ways to interact with one another. That might mean kissing the top of a child’s foot, wearing a mask to hug, or tapping elbows while wearing a big smile.
Rob Klein said he and his family have had to make similar adjustments in their White Plains, New York home since his two sons started their quarantine on March 2 after several students at their school, Westchester Torah Academy, tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Tuesday morning, Aiden, 11, tripped over an exercise ball and hit his head on the wood floors. It was just a minor injury – the kind where a hug from a parent makes all the difference. Klein, who’s been strictly adhering to the social distancing limits, told his son to try squeezing his teddy bear, the one he’s had since he was a baby, to make himself feel better.
“It’s tough,” Klein said. “You want to give that comfort, and you can’t.”
- Read more:
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- 13 tips for protecting your child against the coronavirus, according to a paediatrician
- New York families under coronavirus quarantine worry isolation measures aren’t strict enough: ‘If there are no answers, people make their own decisions’
- What a coronavirus quarantine was like for a mother and her 5-year-old twins in Taiwan