My Kids Are Angry At Me Because I Won’t Let Them See Friends Due To Social Distancing

We’re living in an unprecedented time in history; there’s not really a parenting handbook on how to manage a global pandemic.

Just like any other childcare topic, parents are bound to have different approaches and philosophies as to what the “right” way to do things is. However, in this situation, it has left me looking like the bad guy to my child.

Social Interactions Are The Norm For Kids At School

kids together on jungle gym
Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith / Buyenlarge / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Carol M. Highsmith / Buyenlarge / Getty Images

As a kid, you get to see your friends every day from Monday to Friday while at school. You get to play with them during recess, lunch periods, and sometimes in class. Even high school students have time structured into their days to be social.

Beyond School, Social Events Were So Important

girls from senior class in prom dresses
Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images

After-school activities like sports and clubs also contain an important social component. For young people, social events like dances, parties, and just regular hangouts are key to maintaining health and happiness.

Lockdown Made Social Interactions Disappear Almost Overnight

A giant television over the A57 Motorway urges people to stay home
Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Suddenly, with the implementation of lockdown, school and regular social activity ceased entirely. Communication between kids has, at best, been limited to texting/calling/video chats or using social media, and at worst it has become non-existent.

I Understand That Quarantine Has Been Extra Difficult For Kids

Girl Crying
Photo Credit: Education Images / UIG via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Education Images / UIG via Getty Images

Not having school is different from not going to work: despite maybe interacting with coworkers and going to meetings, adults are used to more solitary environments. In contrast, it’s easy for kids to feel cut off from each other and the world.

My Kids, Through It All, Have Been Understanding

two young boys playing with paint on floor
Photo Credit: Scopio / Victoria Favron
Photo Credit: Scopio / Victoria Favron

While they’ve spent the last few months frustrated and annoyed, they’re all old enough to understand why social distancing has been mandatory, and they’ve focused their anger on the circumstances since no one could see each other.

Now, Their Friends Are Getting Together

Smiling girl on swing with other children in background
Photo Credit: Scopio / Marta Kallai
Photo Credit: Scopio / Marta Kallai

With the government lifting some of the restrictions on public spaces and gatherings, parents of a lot of the other kids around us have started allowing them to attend social gatherings and hang out.

I Have Been Hesitant To Allow My Kids To Do The Same

three children on swings at sunset
Photo Credit: Scopio / Jenn O’Hara
Photo Credit: Scopio / Jenn O’Hara

As I mentioned earlier, we’re living in an unprecedented time, and the health risks involved in social interaction aren’t 100% clear, especially since this virus seems to be affecting different age groups in atypical ways.

My Wife And I Had A Long Discussion About It

Man and woman sitting on brown lounge chairs
Photo Credit: Scopio / Alexandre Catoire
Photo Credit: Scopio / Alexandre Catoire

We talked about the health risks, especially in our city, and weighed them against our children’s mental well-being regarding being away from friends this long, but ultimately we decided that we wouldn’t allow our kids to gather with their groups of friends.

Inevitably, My Kids Asked The Question

Two girls making faces beside full-lite door
Photo Credit: Scopio / Jenn O’Hara
Photo Credit: Scopio / Jenn O’Hara

I knew that it was only a matter of time before at least one of my kids would ask to hang out with a group of friends who were planning to get together. The day it happened, I could tell how excited they were at the prospect of seeing their friends.

…And I Had To Be The Bad Guy

boy pleading with dad
Photo Credit: EVA HAMBACH / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: EVA HAMBACH / AFP via Getty Images

I had to steel my nerves in order to tell them “no.” I explained my reasoning behind it, but I could tell how deeply disappointed they were with the news in their eyes.

They Say That I’m Being Unfair To Them

boy looking down
Photo Credit: Scopio / Elena Merce
Photo Credit: Scopio / Elena Merce

One of the hardest things about parenting is that you can’t control other parents’ actions—and you will inevitably be compared to them. Both of my kids have pointed out that it’s unfair that everyone else’s parents are fine with their kids hanging out.

Of Course, We Aren’t The Only Parents

Baby sitting while drinking near oil heater
Photo Credit: Scopio / Kate Wallace
Photo Credit: Scopio / Kate Wallace

There are definitely other parents who have made the same decisions and rules as us. However, while it’s clear to my children which other kids have been given permission to go out, the ones who aren’t allowed to gather with friends are a lot less visible.

My Kids Have Been Angry With Me Ever Since

Teenage girl seen through glass
Photo Credit: Scopio / Kate Bathurst
Photo Credit: Scopio / Kate Bathurst

They’re a little less warm towards me and my wife, a little moodier, and they clearly aren’t getting over their grudge soon. My eldest has spent most of the past week or two locked up in her room avoiding us.

Unfortunately, It’s Not A One-Time “No”

Girl wearing white sequinned sleeveless top
Photo Credit: Scopio / Dina Khoury
Photo Credit: Scopio / Dina Khoury

The issue with a situation like this is that, with each new gathering their friends have, my kids will ask if they can go this time. With new information about the virus coming out every couple of days, they hope that I’ll change my mind.

I Completely Understand Their Frustrations

Two girls standing in front of glass window
Photo Credit: Scopio / Elena Merce
Photo Credit: Scopio / Elena Merce

It’s not like the old days when kids don’t have to see what they’re missing; their friends will share the details of their last hangouts or post on social media, making them feel even more left out and lonely.

I mean, I remember feeling left out a few times when I was younger when my friends would get together without me, and there wasn’t even a pandemic then.

I’ve Been Back And Forth On The Issue

man looking out off balcony
Photo Credit: Tom Shaw / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Tom Shaw / Getty Images

There have been times that I’ve almost decided that we should let them out because all of their friends seem fine. I second-guess myself and wonder if I am being paranoid about the whole ordeal.

I Hate Knowing My Kids Are Upset With Me

Mature man looking out the window
Photo Credit: Scopio / Eva Ozkoidi
Photo Credit: Scopio / Eva Ozkoidi

I heard it a million times before: sometimes in parenting, you have to be the bad guy. Especially since we’re still living in lockdown mode, I have to feel my kids’ annoyance with me 24/7 and it really hurts.

…But This Isn’t About Me

Man sitting on window sill
Photo Credit: Scopio / Guilherme Coelho
Photo Credit: Scopio / Guilherme Coelho

I was really starting to feel mopey when I realized: this situation isn’t about me. As much as my feelings were being hurt, my kids’ health was the priority in this situation, and I had to put aside my feelings.

I’ve Learned To Have Resolve In My Decision

man looking out window
Photo Credit: Scopio / Paulo Jaloto
Photo Credit: Scopio / Paulo Jaloto

At the end of the day, I learned that I had to trust in the decision I made and not let my emotions cloud my judgment when it comes to my children’s safety.

The Worst Part Is Not Knowing If It’s The Right Call

man looking conflicted
Photo Credit: Scopio / Araab King
Photo Credit: Scopio / Araab King

Each parenting challenge is like a test, but unfortunately, we only see our results much later, and the lesson comes even later after that. All you can do is trust in your decisions and be ready to apologize in the future if you were wrong.

All I Can Hope Is That One Day They’ll Understand

Grayscale photography of child sitting front of window
Photo Credit: Scopio / Elena Merce
Photo Credit: Scopio / Elena Merce

While it might feel like I’m wronging them right now, I hope that my children might one day grow to understand why my wife and I chose to keep them home and not resent us for it.

That Said, Things Could Change

Person using gray laptop computer
Photo Credit: Scopio / Jun Pinzon
Photo Credit: Scopio / Jun Pinzon

It would be unfair to my children if I stayed resolute in my resolve without at least staying up to date on information. I regularly monitor the rates of infection and what is going on locally to see if it could now be safe to send my kids out with friends.

I’m Looking For Ways To Compromise

grayscale_photo_of_man_and_woman_kissing-scopio-bd2c0caa-7833-4ee0-b60b-459844e027da
Photo Credit: Scopio / Natalia Zhmutskaya
Photo Credit: Scopio / Natalia Zhmutskaya

My wife and I have recently discussed how we could help alleviate our kids’ loneliness without sending them to hang out with a group of other kids at one time.

We Came Up With A Half-Solution

Two teen girls together outside
Photo Credit: Scopio / Justine Bernice Basco
Photo Credit: Scopio / Justine Bernice Basco

We’ve decided that we’ll allow our kids to invite over one friend at a time and they can spend a few hours together in our backyard; we’ll even help organize activities that they can do together, if they want.

It’s A Good Middle Ground

2 girls in white long sleeve shirt and white pants running in backyard
Photo Credit: Scopio / Irati Ayerza Ganzarain
Photo Credit: Scopio / Irati Ayerza Ganzarain

This way, our children can see a friend or two in order to feel a little less isolated, but my wife and I are able to make sure that they’re social-distancing and not putting themselves or other kids at risk.

Overall, I Think This Experience Has Made Me A Better Parent

man, woman, and children on sofa
Photo Credit: Scopio / Ines Gule
Photo Credit: Scopio / Ines Gule

For a job that is mostly “learn on the go,” I hope that I can learn something from every decision I make. This whole experience has taught me how to manage my children’s disappointment in me when I’m only trying to do what’s best for them.

I Look Forward To The Day My Kids Can Play Like Normal

boy and girl playing on jungle gym
Photo Credit: Scopio / Wenjung Yang
Photo Credit: Scopio / Wenjung Yang

In such a strange, unprecedented time, it’s hard to know if anything will return to our previous “normal” again, but I’m looking forward to the day I can send my kids out with their friends without any hesitation.