American Parents: Why Things in Italy are Almost Back to Normal

In late March, I wrote an article for American parents that went viral. Italy was then the Covid-19 hotspot of the world, with cases increasing exponentially every day. In the US, where there were a few cases here and there, I saw my American friends doing exactly what I had done just a few weeks before: letting their teens socialize, expounding on how Covid was “just the flu,” acting as if the virus was far removed from their daily lives and probably innocuous. 

Now the tables have turned. New infections in Italy have been close to zero for months now, and we are living a summer that feels (don’t hate me) almost normal. There are no sleep-away camps, but there are sports, and vacations, and socializing with friends and family. We are currently at the beach with three other families, having barbecues and eating in restaurants and enforcing curfews. 

There could be another wave, but we’re not thinking about that right now. We check the numbers each day, and act accordingly. 

We are living a summer here in Italy that almost feels normal. (Twenty20 @raisazwart)

Some Do’s and Don’ts for American Parents

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts for American parents, who are having trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (summer is going to end, and we’re still going to be at home with the family?!)

  1. DO: Live with the knowledge that this is a temporary situation. This pandemic will end, even if you don’t know when. Patience is something that we need to model, for each other and for our kids. 
  2. DON’T: Focus on the possibility of another wave. Live each day in the present, so that if the numbers in your area are good, take advantage of that and get your family outdoors into the fresh air.
  3. DO: Seek out positive news stories about vaccines. Articles that highlight the tragic and the corrupt will always be clickbait, but you need to resist. There’s even a name for this behavior-“doomscrolling.” Don’t do it. Research is progressing at the speed of light. I have a number of friends who are signed up to try one of the vaccines in September. The scientific world is collaborating in a way that it has never done in history, and is making unprecedented progress. That is the story worth reading. 
  4. DON’T: Make any major life decisions. Many marriages took a hit during lockdown, and several friends of ours whose relationships were on the rocks are finding their partners again this summer. A pandemic is not the time to reevaluate your spouse or career. 
  5. DO: Plan a trip for post-Covid. Italians always tease Americans for planning their trips way in advance – as much as a year! So why not plan, down to the last detail, a family trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to go for next summer? There are good insurance policies just in case, and the planning of it will do good things to your psyche. 
  6. DON’T: Continue to feel bad about what your kids have gone through, and therefore let them off the hook in terms of screens, chores, bedtimes, etc. Our teens had very few boundaries during lockdown, because we knew that the outside boundaries were so rigid. Now that they are freer in the world, it’s been tough to reestablish their responsibilities at home. They are fine. They can get off their phones and contribute to the household. 
  7. DO: Learn some lessons from the way Italy handled this. Governments, like parents, need to prioritize health. They can’t be afraid to tell their citizens: “No, you can’t do that right now.” Like in families, there needs to be communication that is coherent, clear, and well-enforced. 
  8. DON’T: Consider mask wearing an all-or-nothing deal. Wear them when you need to, which is anytime you are near people who are not in your pod. Italians carry masks with them everywhere, and put them on and take them off many times a day. If you are inside or outside in a place where social distancing is not possible, the mask goes on, otherwise they’re an upper arm bracelet. 
  9. DO: Continue to remind people that hugging and hand-shaking isn’t a great idea yet. General social distancing has become second nature for most people here, but not all. Some friends will forget about Covid very quickly, and it’s fine to remind them that we’re still living with it, even though we’re much freer than we’ve been. As long as the virus is still circulating, we need to be diligent.
  10. DON’T: Pay any attention to your kids when they say that you are “the only parent” who is still thinking about Covid. Even when the infection rate is close to zero, it will exist until there is a vaccine. We can live quasi-normal lives without throwing all caution to the wind and forgetting about the last six months. This summer in Italy isn’t completely carefree, but it’s a whole lot better than it’s been. 

You Might Also Want to Read:

Popular Face Masks for Teens and Adults, Too – We asked our Grown and Flown community which masks they liked the most.

Here’s a Way to Tell If your Family Travel or College Town are Safe This site will give you the relevant Covid health data about a vacation destination or college town.

About Katherine Wilson

A writer and TV commentator living in Italy, Katherine Wilson is the author of the internationally acclaimed memoir ONLY IN NAPLES (Random House). She has been published in Publisher's Weekly, the Daily Mail, and the Pool, as well as being featured on BBC Radio 4. Her work has been translated into seven languages. She is a moderator for the United Nations in Rome and Italian television. Find her on Facebook at Katherine Wilson

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