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Young girl in mask COVID-19 cystic fibrosis

Tips from a family who has social distanced for 20 years

After months of social distancing and staying safer at home, many businesses are starting to open their doors and people are starting to venture outside. However, going back to “normal” will not be what it was before COVID-19. Social distancing, for example, is still something we’re practicing as much as possible and is our new norm. While it feels a bit strange to worry about standing to close to someone else at the grocery store and not to shake the hands of others, this has always been the norm for some of our patients and their families.

Taylor and Cystic Fibrosis

When Taylor was born 20 years ago, her family’s lives changed. She was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and frequently visited us at Children’s Wisconsin. CF is a disease which left Taylor with extremely vulnerable lungs. A thick, sticky mucus builds up and allows her lungs to carry dangerous pathogens and bacteria. These harmful germs could affect her, as well as other patients with the disease, which could lead to severe or worsening lung disease.

To keep Taylor and her lungs as safe and healthy as possible, her and her entire family had to instill social distancing practices in their everyday lives. Regularly washing our hands for at least 20 seconds, being careful to not touch our faces or commonly touched objects, wearing masks in hospitals and other high risk places, and staying away from people who are sick are all things that have become normal practices for them.

Making social distancing a normal habit

Much like most of us, Taylor’s parents never worried about social distancing until a major life event forced them into it. Because of COVID-19, we are now being asked to take many of the precautions Taylor and her family have been taking since she was born. Her mom, Stephanie, said, “This was a learning curve for us all. It was a challenging time filled with many emotions and anxiety. I was afraid at first, but realized that we can’t live in a bubble. We need to live our lives but do it in the safest way possible.” 

Knowing this change can be hard and a little frightening, Taylor and her family gave us some social distancing tips to help you and your family stay safe.

Tips on social distancing 

  • Consciously think about and be aware of your surroundings. Don’t let being cautious slip to the back of your mind. When you walk into a public space, have a conversation with your little ones. Ask them questions like, “What do we need to do in this specific place to keep ourselves and others healthy?” Talk about things like staying far away from the other people who are in that same space, or making a list of any commonly touched objects, such as door handles, hand rails, pens, etc. that are in that area and should be avoided. Be sure to carry disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer for those little hands in case of any forgetful, curious moments.

  • Be open with your communication. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to let those around you know if something is making you or your family feel uncomfortable. Be transparent and ask for space. Chances are other people simply need a small reminder to be respectful of 6 feet of distance.

  • Set your own guidelines and rules. Even as adults, incorporating these practices into our everyday habits takes time. Just like parents, children are going to need time to adjust. They will need some help instilling these practices into their everyday lives. It is good practice to continuously enforce social distancing rules with your kids at home and out in public. Let them know why it’s important to stay 6 feet away from others and be transparent when they have questions.

  • You’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay. This is a new way of life and parents and kids aren’t expected to be perfect at it right away. We are all going to make mistakes, but when we do reflect, on it. Ask yourself or your child, “How could you have handled that situation better?” and “What can you do next time to keep yourself and others safe?” By constantly practicing, social distancing will become a habit in our daily lives. We will keep getting better at it!

  • All this other stuff isn’t going to matter if we don’t have our health. Missing out on things isn’t fun. Feeling left out and lonely might be the price we pay if we opt to stay home instead of meeting our family at a restaurant or our friends at the mall. However, being cautious of our own health and our family’s health is most important. Don’t have your family go anywhere you don’t feel comfortable.

  • Care about yourself and each other. Social distancing equals social respect. While you might not be feeling any symptoms of COVID-19, there is still a chance you could pass on the germs. Think about those around you and keep them safe as well as your own family. 

As we see the community open its doors again, we want to keep everyone safe. We are all responsible for this effort and need to keep practicing social distance to help us stay healthy. Now and always, we are available for parents — virtually and in person — if they have any concerns about COVID-19. 

If parents are concerned, they should contact their child’s pediatrician by phone, MyChart message, schedule an appointment or they can talk to a pediatric care provider through our Online Urgent Care video visits