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I’m an Italian mom under coronavirus lockdown. Here’s what I wish I had done differently before things got bad.

INSIDER logoINSIDER 3/17/2020 Katherine Wilson
a group of people walking in front of a building © ASSOCIATED PRESS

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In Italy right now, we are experiencing a complete and total national lockdown - something that might happen in the US in the near future.

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?"

© Katherine Wilson

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 peoples' cars and homes.

Nearly two weeks in, I realize now 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

a group of people standing in a room © ASSOCIATED PRESS

The only thing that could have saved - 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 in the proximity of 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 him or her out. If in a few weeks reality reflects that you were too conservative, then Hallelujah.

Do let go of screen-time concerns

a close up of a boy in a blue shirt:   To help students stay fresh on their academics, Scholastic set up  a free   "Learn at Home" website appropriate for students from  Pre-kindergarten to sixth grade and higher. Each grade level gets  access to five days' worth of content, which will occupy about  three hours of time. The organization is working on additional  courses for 15 more days.  © Getty/Royalty-Free

To help students stay fresh on their academics, Scholastic set up a free "Learn at Home" website appropriate for students from Pre-kindergarten to sixth grade and higher. Each grade level gets access to five days' worth of content, which will occupy about three hours of time. The organization is working on additional courses for 15 more days.

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 global 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. 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

a group of people sitting at a table © Rick Scuteri/AP

If your teen is traveling or studying elsewhere, require your child 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 read COVID-19 updates obsessively

As you're likely already aware, this pandemic can become addictive and horrifying. Reading about it can cause you undo added 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. 

Related video: Work from home with the whole family (provided by Buzz60)

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