Like all parents right now I’m facing the most nagging question posed by the coronavirus threat — Can you keep your children healthy and safe simply through a total lockdown?
The short answer is yes…and no!
The yes part is that, of course I’m following all protocols to keep my three active, peppy, energetic, athletic, more than ready to go-go-go little boys at home right now. All the more so since Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that they wouldn’t be going back to school for the rest of the school year.
Besides the fact that my sons, who love school, are heartbroken that it’s closed, and that the closure is a huge disruption to their routines, and that it’s not easy for their young minds to fully grasp what’s going on, and that it threatens to make us all stir crazy beyond belief, still, we must adapt.
Shelter in Place with an Asterisk
So let’s get to the “no” part of my answer.
I actually CAN’T keep my boys entirely safe and healthy if they’re indoors all the time. To me, it would be an overreaction to the COVID threat, and a misunderstanding of quarantine.
Why? Because since they’re healthy, and not visiting with others anyway, they need sunshine and fresh air to thrive. And they certainly need to run, jump, stretch, reach, climb, wrestle around, tumble, throw, catch, giggle, explore, and otherwise be active boys.
And this isn’t only so I won’t kill them for simply being little kids who, through no fault of their own are cooped up and under foot — or rather, climbing the walls — all day! 😉
But seriously, folks…
…the sunshine part of that equation is simply a scientific fact.
In a recent article on Medium by medical authority Richard Hobday titled “Coronavirus and the Sun: a Lesson from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic,” Hobday writes,
Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients; and infections among medical staff. There is scientific support for this. Research shows that outdoor air is a natural disinfectant. Fresh air can kill the flu virus and other harmful germs. Equally, sunlight is germicidal and there is now evidence it can kill the flu virus.
But it’s not just what sunshine and fresh air can do to fight a virus. It’s also what sunshine and fresh air can do before a virus.
I’ve written before about a convincing and compelling book called The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, And More Creative by Florence Williams (who I also saw speak). It’s a work that’s totally in line with the philosophy of a nature-based camp experience. And it’s also at the core of what I value in raising my boys. I highly recommend that all parents read it.
What it posits, and what I believe, is that nature isn’t simply an adjunct to human life. Nature is at the heart of a healthy, happy, meaningful life. And not just because Mother Nature is pretty. There’s research and scientific proof that nature plays a critical role in human health and life satisfaction. As a teaser, watch this charming video:
Right now all families are under tremendous stress. Jobs are rearranged, many kids have no school, the economy feels uncertain, and we don’t have a clear end in sight. None of us have gone through a massive quarantine and almost total halt to business and daily life before. To think that the whole globe is going through it together is almost more than we can process.
Still, history issues a cautionary tale of what ignoring the quarantines could unleash. As much as it grates, we have to be patient.
But we don’t have to be helpless, or trapped.
The Sierra Club magazine today advised that time in nature can actually tamp down quarantine anxiety significantly. And while going to national parks might be out either because they’re closed or because they’re overrun with nature-seekers, at least let’s avoid the trap of hunkering down inside where tensions can quickly rise and screens are the too-easy solution for everything.
Mother Nature to the Rescue — Again!
Instead, get out in your garden with the kids and weed, prepare the soil, and even plant what can be planted.
Go for a walk, a bike ride, a run.
If you have to work but want to keep an eye on the kids, let them out in the yard and perch yourself on the deck or by the best window.
Go to your local park at an off-hour such as very early or later in the evening before bedtime. Explore those hiking trails that you keep meaning to get to.
Let the kids run it off, toss a ball, build a fort. Send them on a treasure hunt in the yard for rocks, sticks, acorns, pine cones, and clover.
Take them to the creek for a wade-about.
Let ’em dig or make good old fashioned mud pies. Let them get dirty.
Let their lungs expand, drinking in sunshine and air and all those flowers in bloom right now. It may be the #1 preventive medicine in your arsenal during an otherwise scary time.
And after a day at play in nature, oh how the little dears sleep!
— Elizabeth Shreckhise, Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls