Two weekends ago, Evie’s stuffies started to come down with the coronavirus. Almost all of the dogs had varying levels of flu with complications from flea infestations landing them in the hospital, which was scary because Lotso bear came down with coronavirus and wasn’t isolated. My bedroom got turned into a hospital ward, and a team of 20 mice were working around the clock to care for them. Lady is pregnant with Tramp’s babies, so that added a whole new level of stress. 

At one point, Eli started trying to come up with cures, mostly so that he could go play Just dance, he said. Evie wouldn’t have it, at one point yelling, “ELI! JUST DANCE IS A ‘WANT.’ SAVING ANIMALS LIVES IS A ‘NEED’! THEY COULD DIE. YOU CAN GO PLAY, BUT I’M NOT LEAVING THEM.”

This was heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. It was a rare time lately that I fully engaged in the play with them, because this was clearly heavy emotional work disguised as play. I’ve seen firsthand after two years of play-based therapy how magical kids’ ability to process difficult emotions through play can be. On the other hand, it concerned me about the lasting mental health implications of all of this. 

Was it a good sign that Evie had gotten out of her own sense of injury at missing her friends and school and was thinking about the broader human toll that hasn’t yet hit our family? Or a sign that she’s fearing that broader human toll too much for a seven-year-old?

You have to emphasize the health risks so that your children understand the importance of social distancing, so that they put the things that suck about their lives right now into perspective of the whole. Why a cancelled trip to Disneyland is necessary, and also why it’s not a great tragedy in current times. I’m being very patient right now with a lot of things, but I will not allow my kids to utter the words “no fair” in these times.

But can we overdo it? 

This article and other comments on Chairman Mom have talked about it as the defining event of our children’s lives most likely. A clear before and after. It seems to me like there are a few categories of concern here: Fear of a pandemic, trauma associated with any loved ones who get sick or die, financial trauma of lost income trickling down to kids, isolation, and mourning the loss of school, friends and birthdays. It is a lot for adults to process. 

And for those of us with kids who were in therapy before, how much more damage is being done when they can’t have their trusted places to process all of this? Would love any thoughts on this. I feel like once things start opening back up, there are going to be tough decisions on whether to prioritize kids’ mental health and physical health.

Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:

* * * *