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Navigating play dates during pandemic 'very awkward'

'We're all at different levels of acceptance,' psychotherapist says
Jennifer Tomko holds 're-entry adoption life cycle' paper
Posted at 9:06 AM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 09:06:54-04

JUPITER, Fla. — As schools begin to reopen, some children will go back and others won't. People are taking different strides and therapists claim it can be an awkward time for families.

"It's very awkward being around people," mother Valentina Cattaneo said. "It's like, do you put your mask on? Do you take it off? Do they feel weird that you're wearing it? Do you feel weird they are not wearing it?"

Cattaneo said being social isn't easy anymore.

"People are so used to social interaction and when this struck us, it's like people can't be themselves anymore," she said.

Play dates in a pandemic can bring up anxiety, even in the form of an invitation. Jennifer Tomko, a licensed psychotherapist with Clarity Health Solutions, said everyone is at various points when it comes to re-entry into life.

"We're all at different levels of acceptance and risk tolerance," she said.

Tomko said respect is key to maintaining friendships, especially with those who are not like-minded.

"Some people are going to be very tolerant of potential threats and other people are going to be really really cautious, and we just have to respect where everyone is without judgment and don't make it personal," she said. "There is a logical reason you may be hanging out with these people and not those."

She suggested making plans for the future.

"Be apologetic but also state the reasons, the rationale, for why you don't feel safe yet, and if the person is not able to accept that feedback, then you did the best you could," Tomko said.

Dr. Chad Rudnick, a pediatrician with Boca VIPediatrics, said an individual's own health has to come first.

"Right now, in the times of COVID, it's always OK to say, 'No,'" he said. "You never have to feel bad about declining a play date or an invite to go to someone's house, or do anything with another family. You shouldn't feel the need that you have to explain what's going on in your family's health history in order to explain why you're declining an invitation."

Tomko said getting through this may take time.

"We have to respect that everybody has a different way of living their lives and a different way of making the decisions that they make, and judging those decisions doesn't do anything for us," she said.

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