“Lockdown was like nothing I ever thought I would have to do. Jess and I both have pretty full-on full time jobs. Add to that having to support our three kids with their home learning… it was a lot for us to manage as a family.”

Bern Foley echoes the sentiments of many Australian parents who have had to juggle work, home-schooling, and life in general during the last 18 months. She and her partner, Jess, are members of Rainbow Families. For them, lockdown has also meant missing out on the vital connection to other families and community that the group provides.

Every year of a child’s life is full of growth, experience, and learning; every moment is filled with potential. So, when any time gets taken from them, the loss is magnified.

“Missing an entire term of school is really, really hard on the kids. It’s not just the school and education; it’s being with their friends and the social side of being a kid. That’s what they really miss,” says Bern.

Finally, gradually, restrictions are starting to ease and people are slowly returning to work, school, shops, normality. The messaging around wearing masks, washing hands and getting tested is not as ever-present as it was. So it’s easy to believe the danger is over; to get lulled into a false sense of security and become lax about COVID-19 vigilance.

But it’s not over, and we do need to be vigilant.

COVID-19 is still out there and is likely to stick around for a long time yet. Even if you are fully vaccinated, you can still get it and spread it, and that can be bad for people who aren’t yet or can’t get vaccinated.

Vaccines are not available for children under 12 which means they are particularly vulnerable to catching the virus.

Young kids love a bit of rough and tumble, playing in the dirt, touching and picking things up, putting things in their mouth, being affectionate. It’s all part of growing up.

They’re often coming home with runny noses, coughs, aches, fever, sore throat, which may mean they’ve caught a cold. Or it may mean they’ve caught COVID-19.

The only way to know for sure is to get them tested.

Your whole family should be tested regularly, especially if anyone shows symptoms or has been exposed to the virus.

“Our youngest is not eligible for the vaccine yet. She’ll be back at school, which is worrying because she isn’t protected against COVID like the rest of us. So we’re going to continue to follow the health guidelines and get tested if we have any symptoms – to make sure she is as safe as possible until she can get the vaccine,” says Bern who wholeheartedly believes in regular testing.

“It’s never fun going for a COVID test, but we know that we have to go and get tested if we have symptoms. There’s that long, excruciating wait for the results and it’s hard on everyone, particularly the kids, but it’s what we all have to do to keep everyone safe.”

Get familiar with detecting symptoms. The most common ones are: sore throat, runny nose, fever, difficulty breathing, loss of smell or taste, fatigue. Less common ones may include aches, upset tummy, a skin rash. It’s best to consult the NSW Health website for qualified information.

Not everyone gets all the symptoms and some people get none.

If you show any signs at all or think you’ve been exposed, the best thing to do is get tested.

You would never want to be responsible for passing the virus on to someone who is at high risk.

And we all definitely do not want to go into lockdown again.

People in our community especially, need to be with those who know and accept them.

“Being lesbian parents, it is important to us that our kids know other people with diverse families which is why we love Rainbow Families,” says Bern. “We can’t wait to go along to their events as soon as they start up again. That’s why we want everyone to keep getting tested so we can all get through this quickly and safely and spend time with each other again.”

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