'We called it the Big Germ': How children, and their parents, are coping during coronavirus pandemic

Published on Wednesday, 8 April 2020 16:28


Families are figuring out how to cope while cooped up together, all the while managing their children’s fears about the coronavirus pandemic that has engulfed the state and nation.

Cindy Morin of Bristol works for ESPN and is doing her job remotely from home, while her 12 year old daughter Angelina, a Chippens Hill Middle School sixth grader, is doing her school work remotely as well. And on top of the disruption to daily life, there is the stress of the pandemic itself.

“Angelina doesn’t need to know all the details, it would just stress her out more,” Morin said. “We have someone in our family that has gotten it, so it’s scary, and we’ve talked about it. We don’t dumb it down, but we made it very simple. We explained it as, ‘you know how sick you can get with the flu, well magnify that times about 20. And it’s so much more contagious, that’s why we’re staying home.’”

Brittany Barney is home with her husband, her father and her 3-year-old daughter Charlotte, who isn’t even in preschool yet. Barney, who is on the Bristol City Council, said they had a talk with Charlotte about what’s going on.

“We didn’t want to burden her with it, but she had to stop her routine,” Barney said. “One of my good friends has watched her since she was a baby, so all of a sudden she’s not going to that house anymore.”

The Barneys broke down the coronavirus into a simple term.

“We called it The Big Germ, because she kind of understands what germs are,” Barney said. “We said there is a very big germ, and people can get sick really easy so you can’t spend time with your friends because you might get each other sick.”

Stephen Duetzmann is working from home in Plymouth with his three kids – two sons, Evan, age 14, and Jacob, age 11, and daughter Meagan, age 7. He works for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and normally works from home just one day a week. His wife Jennifer is home from her job at the Wolcott school system.

When it comes to the coronavirus, Evan wants to know all the details, Duetzmann said. “When we watch the news, he watches the news. If he asks what’s going on we try and give him as reasoned an answer as we can.”

He’s not happy about not seeing his friends, Duetzmann continued. “We’re actually thinking about relaxing some of our social media rules because all his friends have parents that have been a little bit less strict than us. Right now he can go days without communicating with them.

“Our seven year old is oblivious. She knows that we have to stay inside and that’s why we can’t go see Nana and why she doesn’t go to school. She’s had one Zoom class with one of her teachers and when she got to see her friends she was pretty excited.”

Jacob has more contact with his friends because he is into playing the video game Fortnite and that’s how he was mostly communicating with them anyway, Duetzmann said. As someone who writes about video games as a side gig, he said he trusts his son not to go overboard playing the game too much, especially since he is doing it out in the open in the living room.

Jeffrey Taddeo works with Whitsons Culinary Group, the food service company for New Britain schools. He used to live in New Britain before moving to Newington, “but I consider the kids in New Britain my kids anyway,” he said. “I’ve been here like 20 years and they’re all my babies.”

Currently he is directing the meals being distributed to New Britain families while the schools are closed. “I’m out there on the front lines. I’m hearing the parents at this point are stressed out with being on call with the children 24/7.”

At first the kids were coming out themselves on bikes and scooters to pick up the meals, before social distancing really took hold, he said. “Now the kids are scared. It went from children all over the place to no children, no children even on the playgrounds.”

Taddeo’s own son, 7-year-old Ashton, is home from Elizabeth Green School in Newington, with Ashton’s mother Marie watching him.

“He’s a real active guy. I think he had some major anxiety in the beginning,” Taddeo said. “He was very scared. I asked him to go to Home Depot with me, this was when you could still go out but you had to be very careful, and he said ‘no, I don’t want to get the coronavirus.’ We had to sit down and talk about it.”

It’s especially hard for Ashton because he can’t visit his 92-year-old great grandmother anymore, Taddeo said. “When that was taken away from him he really understood this is serious business. I know it breaks her heart too.”

Ashton still gets to do online karate lessons twice a week and to see his friends virtually, Taddeo said. “I was thinking of getting all the kids together on the iPad and having a pizza contest virtually. Whoever makes the best pizza gets a gift card to Gamestop. I want to focus on positive things. I don’t want them to feel like this is going to go on forever.”

It’s a harsh reality now for everyone, he added. “But maybe in the end this will bring a new sense of family and community - we’re all in this together and we’ll get through it together.”

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Wednesday, 8 April 2020 16:28. Updated: Wednesday, 8 April 2020 16:30.