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Is It Safe To Offer Childcare To Neighbors During The Quarantine?

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I don’t think anyone had any idea just how literal “cancel culture” was going to get. With so many schools and daycares closed because of COVID-19, many parents have found themselves in the position of trying to work from home while simultaneously caring for children who are home from school for an indeterminate amount of time. You may be wondering, is it safe to offer childcare for neighbors or to offer to pay a neighbor or a close friend to watch your kiddo for a few hours?

“We advise everyone to hunker down at their own home with their immediate family and not be in contact with anyone else to decrease the spread of illness,” pediatrician Dr. Tanya Altmann tells Romper. “We all need to work together as a community to protect each other, even if that means staying home to limit the burden on the community and healthcare system.”

There's no official guideline on social distancing and childcare, as Dr. Niket Sonpal, internist and gastroenterologist, tells Romper. However, “common sense would dictate that at this time it would be wiser to isolate as both children and adults can be asymptomatic carriers. There is a significant lag in the period of time between when people are symptomatic if at all.” We’re still in the early stages of social distancing (though it feels to me like it’s been years) and so many people who may fall ill are still in the incubation period, which can be as long as two weeks.

For the same reason playdates are no-go right now and birthday parties are being canceled, having someone outside your family provide childcare isn’t a good idea, tempting as it may be. Kids could be carriers of the coronavirus without exhibiting any symptoms, and the more people who come in contact with a carrier, the quicker the illness spreads (and the longer we all have to quarantine). It’s also difficult to know who in your circle has been truly adhering to social distancing practices, and the fewer people you expose your family to, the better it is for everyone.

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“Things are changing day-to-day and hour to hour as the coronavirus rapidly spreads throughout our country,” Altmann says. “Guidelines may get stricter and I don’t foresee them easing up over the next month. The sooner we all stay home and slow the spread and flatten the curve, the sooner we may see the light at the end of this pandemic.”

The thing that’s extra tricky about this is that at some point, outside childcare might be absolutely necessary, (say if you’re solo parenting young children and need to go to the doctor). In that case, it’s essential that anyone who comes in contact with your kid is adhering to “appropriate social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette... and the childminder is not a member of a vulnerable group,” Sonpal tells Romper.

As for what you can you do day-to-day help without the help of outside childcare, if it’s at all possible, Altmann suggests keeping kids’ schedules as predictable as possible each day, and prioritizing exercise, “even if it’s a dance party at home." If you have a call or something that needs your full attention, there are games your child can play without you, and tons of shows and apps that have an educational slant (or not, whatever works). Try to remember, there's no road map for how to work and parent at the same time, and it's incredibly challenging. Everyone is winging it, and it’s okay to give yourself and your children some leniency during this time.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all our Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here on this page, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.

Experts:

Dr. Tanya Altmann, pediatrician, best-selling author and Evivo consultant

Dr. Niket Sonpal, internist and gastroenterologist