My kids have been invited to a number of outdoor events/youth groups/parties billed as "socially distanced" and then shown up to find out the adults in charge were not enforcing it. And hey, I get it. It is hard to wrangle teens and difficult to enforce kids staying 6 feet apart
Especially with teens who have not had this kind of training or boundaries enforced by their parents and are not accustomed to it. Nobody wants to be the bad guy or the distancing police. Nobody wants to tell kids they can't hug or stand close together.
Problem is, when you advertise that social distancing/masks are going to be enforced and then they aren't, it means you have kids from health-vulnerable families coming & thinking that it is a safe space, and it's not. And I don't just mean a "safe space" to avoid spreading COVID
But I also mean a "safe space" where kids do not have to be the enforcers in a social situation or the one standing back from the group or rejecting hugs. It is absolutely exhausting for teenagers to navigate being some of the few in their peer circle who follow CDC guidelines.
So when they show up to an event that is supposed to be following those rules, it's demoralizing to find out, oh hey, I guess once again I'm on my own to keep reclaiming my personal space. I guess this is yet another space where my friends circle up and I'm sitting 6 feet away.
Or worse, to feel pressure to let go of the rules, and then later not be able to sleep due to anxiety about whether or not they are going to infect a vulnerable loved one because "broke the rules" because they just wanted to be normal around their friends.
It's an unfair position to put kids in. (All of this is an unfair position for kids to be in . . . it's all terrible. But there are ways we can help as the adults in the room.)
Socially distanced means that everyone stays 6 ft apart. That is hard to enforce. I'm not writing this to judge people who are choosing not to socially distance. What I'm saying is that disclosure and honesty are important so that everyone knows what they are walking into
So that everyone has the agency to make informed decisions. If the truth is, "I'm going to hold an event and each child is welcome to behave however they want," then just say that. If you are inviting kids to youth group and have no desire to police their distance, just say that
And then my kids and I can make an informed decision instead of being blindsided by showing up to something we think is going to be one way, and then isn't. It's dishonest, and it's also unkind.
It's empty and performative to write on an invitation or instagram that masks and social distancing will be enforced and then not do it. It may make you feel better about the event, and it may be better press for your church, but it means nothing if it isn't followed through.
It's hard to enforce distancing but it's not impossible. I've done it, and the few events that my kids have been able to be a part of have meant the world to them, and have been a real sanity-saver in this time of isolation.
For kids who are living in a strict quarantine for months on end, and watching their friends on instagram & tiktok living their lives in a very different way, it's a small kindness you can show kids in vulnerable families to host an event that is truly socially distanced and safe
They are lonely and they need those experiences. But if you don't want to enforce, that's okay. They'd still love the invitation. But we'd also love honesty, so that we can make our decisions with honest information, instead of aspirational, PC language about social distancing.
I know there is a ton of judgment around personal decisions in regards to COVID safety. I know there are people who think I am paranoid and "living in fear." I also know there are other people who would judge me for doing ANYTHING with people outside my family.
I'm not writing this to start a debate. I'm just urging all of us to be a little more honest. And if it doesn't feel good to say "I'm going to do this event but we are not going to follow any CDC guidelines at it" then explore that cognitive dissonance BEFORE you invite people in