Italy has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak that's rapidly spreading worldwide.
Katherine Wilson, a mother of two who lives in Rome, said she wished that she and other Italians had listened to warnings about the coronavirus. She warned Americans not to make "similar misguided choices."
The virus has ravaged our country. Hospitals in the north are on the verge of collapse. Intensive-care units are full of people who are elderly, but also people who are 40 and 50. The streets are empty, and restaurants are closed. You have to have an authorization paper to walk your dog.
Only 10 days ago in Rome, this wasn't the case. The government had closed schools and most sporting facilities, but nothing else. Our teenagers were socializing in the evening with their friends. Kids had time on their hands and were healthy and well rested. Did we, as parents, really want them at home on their screens, where they'd been all day?
"What are you going to do?" mothers often texted each other. "Are you letting him go?"
Our teens were going stir-crazy at home. Their friends were going out, and the government hadn't told us to restrict their activities. So, reasoning that this was a disease that didn't strike teenagers, we told them to wash their hands and unleashed them onto the sidewalks and piazzas, into other people's cars and homes.
Nearly two weeks later, I realize that this was a mistake. But this wasn't the only one that contributed to Italy's demise amid the coronavirus outbreak. To help prevent my American friends from making similar misguided choices, I've compiled a list of do's and don'ts for families in the US — a list I wish I'd had only a couple of weeks ago.
Do keep your children home
The only thing that could have prevented — or mitigated — this tragedy in Italy is social distancing.
I'm not talking about a high-five instead of a handshake, or grandchildren not hugging their grandparents. I'm talking about not being close to another human being who is not your immediate family. This is the only available and effective measure to help slow the transmission of the disease.
Don't pay attention to what other parents are doing
When your teen complains that other parents are letting their kids go out and party, your reply should be something along the lines of "Where are my Beats?" Tune them out.
If in a few weeks reality reflects that you were too conservative, then hallelujah.
Do let go of screen-time concerns
Global technology gave this virus the possibility to travel at the speed of light, and it also gave us Netflix.
Nobody is expecting you to entertain or stimulate or engage with your children at all times when there is a pandemic. It's OK if, for now, biology class gets replaced by Instagram and TikTok. Just accept it.
Do shop responsibly
There is no reason to hoard supplies. In Italy, even now, we are still allowed to go to the supermarket every day if we need to, and the shelves are full.
Instead of stocking up on toilet paper, buy food that you've always wanted to cook but never had the time to. In lockdown, you'll have the leisure to let things simmer, soak, and rise.
Do make arrangements for your family to be at home, together
If your teen is traveling or studying elsewhere, require them to come back as soon as possible. You never know what transportation bans are going to be instituted, or when. If you can, drive rather than take a train or plane.
Don't obsessively read COVID-19 updates
As you're likely already aware, this pandemic can become addictive and horrifying. Reading about it can add stress and anxiety and encourage you to envision apocalyptic scenarios.
Instead, focus on what we can do that's actually effective: Wash our hands, take care of our health, and stay at home.