Hey parents, coronavirus prepping is not a sport
Hey coronavirus mums and dads - stop panic buying toilet paper and start thinking about what really matters.
The rapid pace at which the COVID-19 crisis is moving can be overwhelming for adults.
And even when our social isolation strategy moves beyond flattening the curve and into the unknown, our job as parents will continue as the sensible filters of information. For our children that means the fewer words the better, with comfort and calm as our beacon and the mission to always be honest.
What it does not mean is gold stars for being able whip up your own sanitiser on the kitchen bench, snootily squirting the mix into your manicured hands for Instagram or Facebook while judging the rest of us time-poor saps who go the full retail route. If we can get our hands on any sanitiser, that is.
Already social media is crammed with smug mummies showing off their war chests of food, soap and paper products plus the whiteboards detailing the home schooling day ahead, fruit and meditation breaks included. Don't make sanitation acquisition skill or colour coding tins of beans and tuna in the pantry as the latest upper middle class sport.
And while any parent including myself supports the right to mitigate this health and economic crisis as you see fit, surely we can give the competitive parenting, the inevitable segue of panic buying, a break.
The PM even declared "un-Australian" the stockpiling of groceries, loo paper and the like in an impassioned bid to stop shoppers hoovering up products leaving zilch for the elderly.
How thin the veneer of respectability and civilisation is a message I have been contemplating week.
Or as family psychologist of 27 years' experience Dr Claire Orange told me: "Boasting to other mums about having lots of hand sanitiser and so on at home is the cherry on the parent shaming cake".
We have a job apart from looking after our kids - it's called sowing hope, she says.
"We tend to be protective over our babies," Dr Orange said.
"Don't go on social media tormenting and compare yourself to that mum who started stockpiling three months ago.
"Getting a parenting award is not the aim here.
"Use coronavirus as a catalyst for change."
In managing any fear factor for kids, the now torturous supermarket expedition is a good start.
If you can avoid taking your kids, then don't take them.
While I am definitely one for being a realist with my children, I fail to see how exposing them to the stress of stripped supermarket shelves is anything but unhelpful.
I have a friend who took her two young nephews out for the morning on the weekend and they decided to stop at the local supermarket for a treat. The eldest of the two, aged just eight, suggested they check out the store while they were there instead to see if there was any toilet paper on the shelves. A good idea, this little boy declared, would be good to buy as much as they could.
"He became quite distressed when we saw the empty shelves and wanted me to go and ask the staff to check twice in case there was some out the back," my friend told me.
"Even the lure of a treat didn't calm him and he left the shop empty-handed.
"I asked him why he was worried. He said he had been out with his parents shopping that week and saw people in the supermarket fighting over a packet of toilet paper.
"If confused him but also made him afraid his family might run out."
Tell your kids - you had a cold and then you got better. Australia is at the forefront of coronavirus science.
When at home get your sons and daughters in a routine - kids love routine - and don't suddenly say I'm popping out to get mince before it disappears from the shops.
As Dr Orange says: "When treating kids in a trauma cycle, first thing we establish is a routine.
"Don't pretend it's not happening but don't show them scary graphs which seem to go up and up.
"Ask them instead what has happened during their school day."
A few months ago we were bonded as a nation - doing what Aussies do best, and reaching out a hand to friends and strangers who had been affected by the devastating bushfires.
The risk now is coronavirus leaving a lasting negative message in the minds of our children about what it means to be Australian, these children who will shape the fabric of our culture in years to come.
The spectre of coronavirus is scary enough for our children. We don't need to hammer it home any more. And in any case, if children are the super carriers of the virus that researchers suspect them to be, they should be spared the weekly shopping trip anyway.
Who cares if your hand sanitiser is home brand or homemade scented with handcrafted essential oil? It will still do the same job.
Remind yourself of your priorities. Crises like this are fantastic levellers. This coronavirus will not discriminate between socio-economic groups, religions or communities in general. We are all at risk. We need our world-famous mateship now more than ever. And we need to keep our children safe and well-informed but not so much that we create a whole new world of anxiety for them.
And on that note, just imagine if it took a worldwide virus to an end worldwide to parent shaming? That would be something to boast about.