Why Are Parents Afraid To Let Vaccinated Grandparents Visit Unvaccinated Grandkids?

Evaluating risk is hard in an era of parenting panic.


The grandparents are both vaccinated. The parents, half-vaccinated. The grandkids, ages 6 and 3, not vaccinated. Time for the grandparents to finally fly in for a visit?

No, said the kids' mom. She didn't feel comfortable. After some awkward negotiating—the mom agreed to the visit if they quarantined and got COVID-19 tests—the grandparents got the hint. They agreed to stay away until whenever the kids get their jabs.

That's one story in a recent Wall Street Journal piece on people navigating the choppy waters of this not-quite-post-pandemic era. The piece also featured people wondering if they should shake hands, hug, etc. But I'd like to consider what it means to not allow vaccinated people around unvaccinated kids, because it reminds me of so many other questionable decisions we make when it comes to kids' safety.

"The people who are parenting now grew up in the Etan Patz / Adam Walsh era," says David Ropeik, a retired Harvard instructor and author of How Risky Is It Really?: Why Our Fears Don't Always Match the Facts.

Patz was stolen from a Manhattan bus stop in 1979, and Walsh was kidnapped outside a Florida Sears a few years later. Patz was one of the first missing kids whose picture was featured on a milk carton, and Walsh's abduction and murder generated significant national interest. (His father, John Walsh, became a victims' rights advocate and host of America's Most Wanted.) These cases fueled mass panic about stranger danger, even though the vast majority of child kidnappings are perpetrated by a family member rather than a creep in a white van.

Ropeik doesn't believe that this generation of parents is more irrational or fearful than others, just that they have been exposed to a greater level of negative news coverage about danger. "Risk perception goes up or down in direct relation to how prominent the risk is in the news," he says.

What's true of child abductions could very well be true of a certain virus that has enjoyed exhaustive media coverage for the past year.

But just like kidnappings, the actual risk to children is quite small.

"The grandparents aren't going to transmit it and the kids aren't going to get sick," says John Tierney, co-author of The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and We Can Rule It. "We have such a sophisticated panic-porn industry and they're just competing to scare you all day long."

Bridget Foley is a mom of two who thinks about panic a lot—her novel about an L.A. earthquake, Just Get Home, came out last week. Foley moved to Idaho to try to get away from the heightened fear levels she saw when living on the coasts. In Los Angeles, she says, she was in a new-mom group when two members were arranging a playdate. One asked the other, What do you wash your floors with? The response was Pinesol. This prompted the first mom to cancel the playdate. There was no way she was about to expose her precious baby to a non-organically-washed floor.

Foley watched ever more childhood activities get doom-ified.

"People don't do sleepovers anymore," she says—and that was before COVID-19. "They do things like they drop their kids off and the kids are there till 10 and then they pick them up, bring them home, and then bring them over in the morning for breakfast."

When she visited Idaho and saw kids playing in the parks unsupervised, Foley and her family decided to move there. Now she lets the kids go sledding (something not all the parents she knew back east would permit), but she has them wear helmets (something not all the Idaho parents require). Every bit of parenting is on that same allow/prohibit continuum.

Is there a way to move the needle? A way, perhaps, to convince parents to let their vaccinated parents visit the grandkids?

"What moves the needle on risk most times is showing respect for why people are or are not afraid," says Ropeik. A grandparent could say, for instance, "'I know you want to protect Susie. And way back when I was your age, I might have done the same thing. Let me just add that you also give some thought to having a grandmother in her life.' So you've framed the debate in a way that's respectful, rather than argumentative."

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  1. “The people who are parenting now grew up in the Etan Patz / Adam Walsh era,”

    If that was 1979-1981, then the people parenting today weren’t born yet.

    1. But they were born in and grew up in the era shaped by those events

      1. And they seem to be unable to use logic. If grandma and grandpa are both vaccinated, they cannot give nor get the ‘rona to or from the kids. Couldn’t be simpler.

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    2. I was born in 74 and have a 4yo and 7yo. I remember the movie Adam vividly.

  2. I know you want to protect Susie. And way back when I was your age, I might have done the same thing. Let me just add that you also give some thought to having a grandmother in her life.

    One supposes that’s better than “Fuck you! How’s your comfort level *now*?”

    1. yes…. but that second option is more of he norm.

    2. Nicer Maybe. But it’s not nearly as effective!

  3. I blame the CDC for acting as if the vaccine doesn’t really work at stopping the spread of Covid. Their messaging is horrible.

    1. If the vaccine works the cdc looses all of its precieve political power

    2. the CDC has screwed up massaging through this whole thing. I’m trying to think of a single aspect they have gotten right.

  4. Lefties are generally dummies. Go to any area heavily dominated by lefties and you’re guaranteed to still see tons of these fools with masks on outside and driving in their cars, by themselves no less. In areas without tons of lefties, you don’t see it nearly as much anymore. Even reasonably well-informed people know (or should know) by now that’s absolutely pointless.

    Note that this is still (nominally) a free country, and being stupid, easily frightened, and ill/informed isn’t illegal. These poor dumb bastards have the same right to be left alone as everyone else, but shame on the scumbags like Fauci and his buddies in the government/media complex for misleading them so badly and never really correcting the record to this day.

    1. I live on a private drive in the woods, and most of my neighbors are more conservative. There is one liberal family that lives down the private drive (still has a Hillary bumper sticker) and when they walk down the private drive to get their mail, they wear a mask. There is only 5 families on the drive, so chance of coming into close contact is minuscule.

    2. I guess they’re still alive to be dumb then. Unlike idiots who didn’t care about covid and died. Hmm..

      1. What about the idiots who did care about covid and died? Or those who didn’t care and didn’t die?
        You do realize that the vast majority of people have a very slight chance of dying from this whatever they do?

        1. He’s an idiot.

        2. It appears he believes that dying from Covid has a moral correlation. More evidence that progressivism is a religion.

      2. You’re one of the people I’m talking about, aren’t you?

        1. Exactly.

        2. “If you don’t wear a mask, you will die.” A leftist acquaintance of mine actually said that last April.

          1. I noted at the time the rhetorical shift from masks as a 40% decrease in the spread rate, far from perfect but helpful, to “flatten the curve”, i.e. reduce the risk of overloading emergency rooms, and, more importantly, ICUs, to being about keeping you, yes you right there, from dying directly.

            It never was about that, but the power hungry lie because it’s congenital to them.

  5. Evaluating risk is hard in an era of parenting panic.

    Did statistics suddenly get harder?

    Life never comes at anyone fast, it comes at everyone at the same speed and some people are just slower.

    1. I like that last sentence. Great line. Some people ARE just slower.

  6. “Why Are Parents Afraid To Let Vaccinated Grandparents Visit Unvaccinated Grandkids?”

    Because propaganda works.
    Goebbels was a piker compared to today’s left.

    1. The original rationales for the fears fall away as the thing being bad in and of itself takes over as a learned (assumed) association.

      We saw this with vaccines and autism, “because of mercury”, which supposedly irritated a lining, leading to autism.

      None of that was true, and mercury was removed anyway, and autism continues to climb, but no matter.

      Vaccines were bad now, independent of mercury, and a little later, independent of autism concerns.

  7. Gee, my kids aren’t even afraid to let their unvaccinated parents visit their grandchildren.

    But one of the other grandparent sets mask and glove around my grandson- WHO LIVES WITH THEM! IMHO- child abuse. My ex daughter-in-law has custody and can’t live on her own. Family court judges are idiots.

    1. There’s a meme out there with a picture of an entire family covered with a clear plastic tarp hugging their mother/grandma. Life has truly surpassed parody.

  8. the pandemic has shown us that too many people, mostly all libs, lack any critical thinking skills. they are sheep and blindly believe everything they’re told. they believe the fear without any research of their own. the people in this story are the people you see driving in a car alone and wearing 2 masks. they’re the same people out for a walk with no people around for miles and they’re wearing masks. the pandemic has revealed just how many people are actually verified morons.

    1. Yeah but they are not doing me any harm so what do I care. People do things all the time. Ever notice how some of them dress at Wal-Mart?

      Also sometimes people keep the mask on in the car when they are out running errands because it is easier than taking it on and off.

      1. They are actually doing you harm if they petition local governments and businesses to enforce mandates that cause more harm than good. And local governments and businesses are listening.

        1. And that’s exactly what they do. They are a big part of the problem, not just a sideshow.

      2. “Yeah but they are not doing me any harm so what do I care…”

        When they came for the……

  9. A grandparent could say, for instance, “‘I know you want to protect Susie. And way back when I was your age, I might have done the same thing. Let me just add that you also give some thought to having a grandmother in her life.’ So you’ve framed the debate in a way that’s respectful, rather than argumentative.”

    You forgot about the ‘Back when I was your age, we didn’t put your little rugrat into debt up to his eyeballs.’

    1. “And way back when I was your age, I might have done the same thing.”

      Passive-aggressive bullshit.
      Don’t lie to your children. That is not respectful, it pretends their errors are not errors.

  10. Why Are Some People Idiots?

    It’s a mystery.

    1. Lenore does this all the time. Some dumb thing from Facebook and makes it sound like a social issue. Maybe they just don’t want them to come for a visit for other reasons. I dunno.

      Like the kids masks thing. I never see kids playing outside or doing outdoor activities with masks on.

      1. I take it you’re not in a leftist stronghold.

      2. Come to Massachusetts…..

  11. I dunno, probably because assholes like you have been pumping the fear at 10000% 24/7 for almost a year now?

  12. Ropeik’s analysis is wrong. This generation of parent is more irrational and fearful and it’s because they’ve been exposed to a greater level of negative news coverage without being taught about cognitive biases like the availability heuristic. The fact that we know why someone is irrational does not make them any less irrational.

  13. Maybe it’s because the media has been yelling “If you go outside or near any other person you will immediately fall over dead” for the past year or so. And then once the vaccines were available the media insists everyone still wear a mask and social distance. Talk about mixed messaging!

    I’m not vaccinated and neither or my children (and certainly not the grandchildren). I do not wear a mask, and neither do my children or grandchildren. The gkids are at my house at least three times a week. So far, we are all still healthy and alive.

  14. >>Evaluating risk is hard in an era of parenting panic.

    evaluating risk is simple if one avoids panic.

  15. How do people not know that healthy kids face pretty much zero danger from this virus? I have a pretty good idea, but it amazes me that so many people don’t even bother to seek out the information at all. It’s pretty damn easy to find.

  16. Funny how a libertarian rag is bitching about people’s own personal decisions. Isn’t that the whole gd point?!

    1. Believing that people have the right to make their own decisions doesn’t mean you can’t tell them they made a dumb decision.

      1. He is an idiot.

        1. You are far too complimentary.

    2. Are you unaware that there are mask mandates, and pro-mask propaganda being shoved down people’s throats from most of corporate media, and that libertarians are against that?

      I’m sorry, but you don’t get your fifty cents for this comment.

    3. The problem is that the car maskers et al are a driving force behind the over-the-top regulations from government and businesses, and will be vocal about maintaining restrictions as long as possible.

      1. Most of you went to college. Did you not take psych 101 with the unit on getting people to buy into big things, by convincing them to do little things?

        Ask someone to put a big, obnoxious sign in their yard, they say no.

        Get them to put a small one in, they may say yes. A little while later ask if you can replace it with a larger sign, then larger, then larger. Eventually you are up to the big obnoxious sign.

        This is a known technique and can be used by government to prep populations for bigger and bigger impositions.

        Why give up on the mask foothold?

  17. “think about your stupid kid not having grandma, daughter-in-law” is still argumentative.

    1. Which puts them in the rare unusual condition of a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law not getting along very well.

      1. lol yes

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  19. yet another example of extremes becoming normalized.

    you got a large number of people who STILL think Covid is no biggie, and nobody should be taking any precautions whatsoever.

    and then you got another group that will live in perpetual panic and fear even after they and others have been vaccinated.

    and then there are the poor grandparents in this story that are stuck in the middle. they got vaccinated, they isolated and stayed away until they did, they waited for their kids to get vaccinated before even talking about coming to visit…… and they get punished while the paranoid and apathetic yell at each other across the partisan divide.

  20. How could anyone who believes the panic porn that the MSM has been spinning for the last year make a rational decision about anything? The last thing anyone who gets their information from TV or social media could be called is “well informed”.

    Even 50% of GOP respondents in the Gallup poll last December thought that more than 20% of all Covid patients require hospitalization (Dems were at 70%); and most of those people thought it was actually 50% or higher. Maybe 20% of the people overall were in the correct ballpark of 1-5%, which is accurate for overall cases, but for anyone under 25, it’s been more like 0.1% or less. For most people, understanding the difference between 1% and 20% or 50% is apparently “too much math”.

    1. For some bizarre reason, people celebrate their innumeracy. Image someone being that proud and outspoken about their illiteracy. “I don’t do none of that readin’ stuff.”

  21. Nooooooooo.
    Or rather YES, except for the craven, no good, very bad, bend-over end.

    The author tells us, “”What moves the needle on risk most times is showing respect for why people are or are not afraid,” says Ropeik. A grandparent could say, for instance, “‘I know you want to protect Susie. And way back when I was your age, I might have done the same thing. ”

    No, we wouldn’t have. No we didn’t. And it’s impossible to show respect for the insanely ridiculous.

    Just as we would not — as a kind & gently reassuring & respecting thing — tell the idiot emperor that his new clothes are FABULOUS…. so too should the responsible and aware grandparent NOT tell his child that 14 month quarantines are, gosh & golly, oh so reasonable and I probably would have done exactly the same idiotic thing. No. 14 month quarantines…continued even past the vaccination point are flat out stupid.

    Life is risk. Everything is risky. The lifetime odds of dying in a traffic accident are greater than the odds of dying from WuhanV. Disease and Danger are out there and they’re not going away. Not even if you really really want all that bad stuff to go away and you click your heels together THREE WHOLE TIMES! It’s not happening.

    Not only is the risk a given, the horrors of ‘life in a bubble’ are also a given. Freedom is something that parents MUST give to children, gradually, over time, within parameters…but it must be given. But freedom without risk is not freedom; it’s just a fancy kind of soft-walled prison.

    So no, Grandparents, do not coddle your idiot children. Tell them to grow-up.

  22. You can thank the news media for dumbing down the electorate, in the interest of conforming to DNC requirements.

  23. People are afraid because so many have no idea how to evaluate risk anymore. I was a little concerned about traveling with my teenage kids to visit my father at Christmas, before anyone was vaccinated, but certainly not because I was worried about the kids catching Covid. I discussed it with my Dad, who is old enough to make his own decisions, and he was adamant that we come.

  24. Reason’s pandemic coverage has been crap since the beginning.

    Sure, people have a right to respond in whatever medieval, neurotic way they want. Until their medieval, neurotic response becomes policy and interferes with my life, liberty, and happiness. And/or cripples young minds, because what we’ve done to our children over this past year in response to the virus borders on child abuse.

    1. Last August my daughter and I were hiking in the woods and a mother and 5 year old son were coming in the other direction. We put on our masks and deviated six feet off the path. The kid collapsed, shaking and crying so violently that he couldn’t even put on his mask (not that any of us needed them). His mother did that to him, that behavior doesn’t arise out of a vacuum. Saw them from a distance later, and the kid didn’t seem to have any behavioral issues when alone with mom.

  25. “Why Are Parents Afraid To Let Vaccinated Grandparents Visit Unvaccinated Grandkids?”

    These are the people who think there was an ‘insurrection’ in January, that Trump only got elected with help from the Russkis, and that no source other than CNNNTYWAPOCBSPBS delivers any real news.
    In short, they are lefty ignoramuses.

  26. These cases fueled mass panic hysteria, perhaps even insanity.

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