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What to Do If Your Family Members Aren't Taking Social Distancing Seriously

College students have always been able to turn to family for support when navigating complicated subjects and life events: where to attend school, how to achieve decent grades, how to network, how to take care of yourself on your own – the list is lengthy. However now a role reversal is taking place, and it’s time for you to advise your parents on the serious subject of the new coronavirus. Gen Z is extremely online, and with the disruption of college scheduling across the U.S., young people have been consuming more news and information digitally to stay on top of the COVID-19 spread. While nothing can replace the guidance of a medical professional, at this point it's hard not to feel like an expert at all things social distancing and staying inside. For some reason though, people are noticing that older parents and family members haven't received this urgent message yet. 

"My mom just won't stay home," says Isabel, a junior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. "She continually goes to visit her friends, or she goes to the grocery store 'for fun' despite me constantly texting her to stay inside. It's extra frustrating because she's 64 and her age makes her more vulnerable, but she doesn't see herself as 'old' so she's acting like she's immune to COVID-19, when she's definitely not." 

If you have a parent or family member that's not taking this global health crisis seriously, it can feel beyond frustrating, especially when you have to act like the responsible adult. The best thing you can try to do is continually express how serious this pandemic is, while supplying fact-based information and encouraging social distancing. Additionally, here are a few key tips to follow when pleading with your family to please stay inside. 

Differentiate fact from fiction.

Social media is a useful tool that can help to filter in necessary news updates—but it also houses jokes, memes, altered photos, and conspiracy theories that scramble the truth. When your parent shares a viral Facebook post about at-home cures for COVID-19, that's your opportunity to step in and offer them facts from valid sources. The Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and the official White House websites are all legitimate sources to grab information from. And while the current information that the public has on COVID-19 is limited, these sites will be the first to update on authorized information.

Emphasize social distancing.

Whether your family wants to believe it or not, now is an essential time to practice social distancing. President Trump has released an official statement explaining that there are only 15 days to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which means it’s imperative that we are practicing helpful social separation strategies that will save your lives and the lives of others. So, in conclusion: no, your mom cannot go out and get her hair done at the salon five miles away, no your grandma cannot go play bingo at the local community center, and your dad definitely shouldn’t be playing a round of golf with his friends this weekend. Social distancing has been put in place to protect us, and it's of utmost importance right now.

Lend support.

This is difficult time for many people, and a lot of uncertainty is hanging in the air. There is no better chance to lend assistance to family members who are being impacted and might need your help right now, and these gestures of support can either be big or small. Offer to go to the grocery store on behalf of your grandparents, and drop the groceries outside their door. Organize group FaceTime calls to ease parents that are nervous about losing social contact. Kindness will go a long way, especially when you can show your family that there are feasible alternatives to their usual routine.

Impart wisdom on family members that you know need your guidance. Not only will this keep your family safe, but it will ultimately keep you safe as well. It may not be ideal to bunker down and stay inside, but it’s better than being irresponsible or putting someone's safety at risk.