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My kid is returning to college, living off campus with a friend “pod” and attending classes (mostly remotely).

Families Reopening School Staying Safe

Q: What advice can I give about being responsible and safe? I know they are eager for normal college social life, but I am really worried abut COVID risk.

A: Suggest that the pod makes a PACT:

Protection, Accountability, Commitment, Trust.

Protection/Prevention:

The group can determine together the specific prevention measures and behaviors they will take. At a minimum this should include: masking *and* distancing whenever possible outside the home, scrupulous hand hygiene and good surface cleaning; and limiting social contact beyond the pod. The college may have additional requirements or suggestions (e.g., testing, see last week’s post) which should also be followed. Think of that as another P: Participating in the college’s community compact for successful reopening.

Accountability:

Making a PACT together increases accountability to the plan and to each other. For maximum accountability, the group could consider writing up the agreement, signing it, and posting it on the front door or the fridge as a reminder. Frequent check-ins where the group can assess adherence and tweak the plan as needed are important–a weekly meeting builds in time to do this.

Commitment:

Chances are good every member of the pod has a high-risk friend or family member, or maybe is in a high-risk group themselves. Being explicit about why these burdensome prevention measures are important to you can help increase everyone’s commitment. Hearing from a podmate: “My mom is having cancer treatment” or “I really want to see my Grandma at Thanksgiving” can go a long way. The group could even consider getting visible markers of their commitment to the PACT — the same wristband, pin, or phone case — that serves as a daily reminder of the agreement.

Trust:

This is the glue that makes the other steps work. The group has to trust each other, and of course, you have to trust your kid as well. It is scary contemplating a lot of young adults (including your own!) coming together from around the country and trying have a “normal” college life in the midst of the pandemic. Equip your kid with tools like PACT, and then trust that the pod will do the right thing.

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