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In confinement as a lawyer and mom

Tuesday, June 09, 2020 @ 12:52 PM | By Léonie Tardif-Archambault


Léonie Tardif-Archambault  %>
Léonie Tardif-Archambault
I would have liked to write my first article for The Lawyers Daily under other circumstances but the COVID-19 situation — still an unfortunate reality — demands my attention.

As mentioned in the title, I am a lawyer with the Quebec bar and I live in Montreal. Montreal is a red-light district for COVID-19, where the virus is taking on proportions which, in my opinion, are worrying.

But above all, I am a mother; a mother of a magnificent 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Like most, I am confined to our home and blessed to be able to continue working. I am fortunate to have an employer who understands work-family balance. However, stimulating and taking care of a young child while working brings both joy and concern.

The COVID-19 situation is slowly starting to stabilize, but in Montreal, when spring shows up and the heat arrives, people go out and public places fill up. Montreal is currently undergoing de-confinement, but in my opinion it is too early.

That is why the subject is so close to my heart. My partner and I had to make a decision in late May. We received a call telling us that our daughter could return to her daycare centre on June 1.

Yes, I would love for my child to return to her friends and educators. I can’t wait for her to come home dirty because she rolled in the grass and then go to bed at 7 because she is so tired from playing all day. But what about the measures imposed by the Quebec government on daycare centres? These measures have an impact on everyone — children, educators and parents.

All children are different and they will develop in their own way and at their own pace. However, all preschoolers need affection, comfort, education and the ability to play to ensure normal and healthy development. They are in the process of creating their identity and assertiveness.

As the website NaîtreetGrandir.com so aptly indicates, “Social development refers to the ability to build harmonious and positive relationships with others. It means being able to communicate and manage your emotions well, to take into account the point of view of others before acting, resolving conflicts, cooperating and participating in group life. From a very young age, a child already has his way of relating to others because of his temper, which is mainly genetically determined. However, the development of his social skills continues in contact with the people he meets and the experiences he experiences, first with his parents and family.”

As we have all known for several weeks, the two-metre distance continues to apply for others’ and our own protection. This will also apply to childcare teachers and other staff. Measures must be in place to ensure physical distance between the staff and children and to limit the duration of close contact with children.

The Commission des normes, de l'équité et de la santé et sécurité au travail (CNESST), Quebec’s government organization responsible for the application of the Act respecting occupational health and safety and the Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational disease, imposed a few measures to assure the safety of the staff and children. According to the CNESST guide, all staff members in direct contact with children whose tasks absolutely require being within two metres of another person for a period of more than 15 minutes without physical barrier, and this, only once a day, must wear respiratory and eye protection.

The daycares are requested to create visual cues to encourage the two-metre separation. 

Access to outdoor play structure is prohibited. Children will no longer be able to play with all the toys on the premises and the toys that do get used must be disinfected between each use.

Travel will be limited and measures must be taken to minimize contact between children and staff.

Non-essential common areas must be closed, and access to schools is restricted to staff and children. So parents can no longer enter the daycare centre.

I should add that these are only a few of the stipulations. The measures are justified but I personally find them too restrictive for the healthy development of a child.

The questions I keep asking myself are the following: How do you explain the physical distance of two metres to a preschooler? How can you explain the presence of a virus so youngsters can understand its impacts and need for safety measures? 

What will be the reaction of a preschooler — undergoing social, intellectual and emotional development — who cannot see the smile or the emotions of his teacher since he is wearing a mask; who will be restricted the way he plays and communicates with others; who will be restricted in his contacts and how he can demonstrate and receive affection from others, etc.?

My personal conclusion is that some children will react well to this new system but others will not. 

I have tried to explain COVID-19 to my child in playful language but its very complex.

The situation in Montreal is still unstable and the rules, even if they are justified, are too strict.

I decided to keep my child with me a little longer. What about you?  

Léonie Tardif-Archambault is a lawyer and legal editor at LexisNexis Canada.

Photo credit / Rawpixel ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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