As the holidays near, mother of two Erin Riley of Yorba Linda feels stuck between a rock and a hard place.
"Going to a kid's birthday party. People are having kids' birthday parties," she said. "Do we even do that? Do we even go to that?"
Riley said "parent guilt" sets in when she sees friends on social media posting where they took their kids.
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"Well, so-and-so went to the Irvine Park Pumpkin Patch. Should I be going to take my kids to take pictures?" she said.
And when Riley does say yes, she feels awful about possibly exposing her family to illness.
"You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, right?" Riley said.
Behavioral Health Specialist Cathlyn Fraguela Rios of Providence Health said, "The idea that we have to keep up with what other people are doing or trying to normalize things as best as we can and do things the way it used to, it really weighs heavy."
Mental health experts say it's okay to say no, but tell your kids why.
Providence Health psychiatrist Dr. Arpan Waghray said, "You know you have a wall that will come up whether it's your preteen or teen and you can't communicate unless you genuinely empathize with them and validate their feelings. They're very smart and they'll understand what you're saying as long as you validate them emotionally."
Experts say if you really think about it. It's not the parties and the holiday dinners we care so much about. What we really want from these gatherings is connection. And even though we're staying apart, we can still make emotional connections.
Families can cook traditional recipes together on zoom. You can send presents ahead and open them together virtually.
Rios said, "I think that there's a lot of opportunity to still do things that feel like you're joining even if it's not the same way."
For Halloween, Riley planned a candy scavenger hunt with relatives in her bubble. It's all about doing what makes you feel comfortable.
She said, "You're the parent and it's your child. You need to do what's best for you and your children."