When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, I had a hard time imagining the impact it would have on my family.

Six months later, I’m still trying to make sense of new information being released on a daily basis for both personal and professional use.

My main concern continues to be the health and well-being of my family. My husband, Steve, and I live in Sharpsville with our son, Gavin, who is almost 5, and and our cat, Cheddar.

Parenting through a pandemic has presented unique challenges. How do you explain a potentially deadly virus to a toddler in a way that makes sense without scaring them?

Kids are observant and thrive on routine, so they notice when there’s a major shift in their families’ day-to-day activities.

All of a sudden, I was working from home, my husband was temporarily laid off, and Gavin’s preschool shut down just two days after he started attending classes.

I struggled with not being able to go out into the community to conduct interviews, and Gavin’s new schedule was turned upside down.

His potty-training progress stalled, and he was afraid to sleep by himself. That caused some rough nights for all of us.

And in an effort to maintain social distancing, we did not visit with friends and family, which deprived Gavin of contact with his loved ones. We are fortunate to live near immediate family members, so Gavin had been used to seeing his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on a regular basis.

He wanted to know why we couldn’t visit them and why I didn’t want him to come with me to the grocery store.

We kept the response simple, “A lot of people are sick, and we don’t want to share germs.”

And he was OK with that explanation. He’s learned about germs and viruses on some of his favorite shows, like “Curious George” and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”

Gavin has also done well wearing a face mask the handful of times we’ve taken him to public spaces.

So that turned out to be the easy part. The hard part has been keeping him occupied and active, especially when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

We spend a lot of time outside when possible, but kids and adults alike have experienced the restless feel of cabin fever because of the pandemic.

We’ve incorporated more arts and crafts projects into our schedule, and we’ve enjoyed family movie nights, video chats with loved ones, new recipes and games, and home improvement projects that have been on our to-do list for years.

We are also a family of avid readers, so there have been many, many books.

I’m back in the office, my husband is back to work, and we’re cautiously visiting with immediate family members.

And now that school has been in session for a few weeks, we’re all slowly getting back into what feels like a normal routine, though we know that can change at a moment’s notice.

Gavin started pre-kindergarten at the beginning of September, and Steve and I were nervous at first, considering Gavin didn’t have a chance in the spring to get used to a school setting.

That, combined with new guidelines the school implemented because of the pandemic, has kept us on our toes, but so far, so good.

The kids seem to be doing OK with the face shields they wear at school – Gavin says it makes him feel like a Transformer – and the staff has done a great job at sending out reminders.

The school is prepared to conduct classes virtually if in-person instruction is shut down.

It’s hard to picture pre-kindergarten classes being held online, and we’re not sure how that would would mesh with our work schedules, but we are glad to know the option is there.

We are all doing the best we can, though we sometimes have to remind ourselves that it’s OK to take a step back and slow down.

That can include taking a break from what I call “information overload” in regards to the constant news cycle – not easy for someone who works in the news business, but something that I have found to be very necessary.

And remember: We are all in this together. It really does “take a village” to get through this, and we still have a long road ahead.

MONICA PRYTS is a staff writer for Allied News in Grove City and The Herald in Sharon. She has been with the company since 2004. She lives in Sharpsville with her husband, Stephen, and their son, Gavin. She can be reached at mpryts@alliednews.com. Family Matters will be an occasional feature column in Allied News.

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