As parents and adults slowly get back into everyday life, what are the safest ways to make sure kids are also involved?By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Is it time to put the kids back in the grocery cart, back to playdates?

The answer is yes but with a big asterisk.

The hunker down atmosphere of March has given way to a cautious stepping out in September.

Since the pandemic began we’ve learned that kids are not as susceptible as adults to serious outcomes from the virus and there is power in a mask.

Allegheny Health Network Internist Dr. Jennifer Preiss said it’s okay to say yes when those little arms reach up and you hear, “I go too.”

“If on occasion you want to take your children to the grocery store with you and they are good mask-wearers, I think that it is probably fine to go,” she said. “We understand a little bit more about what type of exposures are high-risk exposures and everyone talks about what the CDC is calling a high-risk exposure as being one that is less than six feet without a mask and for more than 15 minutes. So we believe that when you are walking through a grocery store and everyone is masked up you’re going to be reasonably safe.”

Dr. Preiss said getting most children to wear a mask is really a matter of parental approach.

“I think the fact that everyone is wearing masks really helps children model what their parents and the other adults that come in contact with,” she said. “I think children are much more apt to follow an upbeat sort of positive message. If that message is negative ‘we don’t have to wear them it’s a bunch of bologna’ then kids are not going to wear them.”

As for taking a child to a restaurant, Dr. Preiss said, “The state government has said you can only have 25% capacity and I think if you’re actually in a restaurant that is following those guidelines, I think you can be very very safe.” But she quickly adds that is as long as the restaurant staff are masked up, and you wear a mask until you are served.

WATCH: Safely Bringing Back Playdates

But what about allowing your children to be exposed to other kids outside of school hours as the school year begins?

Dr. Preiss says it depends on the age of your child.

If they are under 10 and, “you are keeping the group of children your child interacts with to a limited number I think it probably is okay,” Dr. Preiss said. “I think if you are doing outside activities I think that’s even better. If they are going to be six feet of each other I think masks are important, but mostly if they’re playing four square they’re running around a jungle gym they’re not going to be standing in front of each other less than six feet for more than 15 minutes. they’re moving around I think that it would be okay.”

As for kids over 10, “We have to be very directive as to what we expect from our young adults and teenagers because that is very different. I really am much more fearful about what is happening in high schools and colleges and dorm rooms because I think that where we’re going to have bigger spikes and the amount of covid cases we’re going to have.”

On another point, as the kids head back to school she says parents need to be on alert.

If your child is learning totally online Dr. Preiss says, “Mood disorders are very much a part of covid and if you child is really putting up a big stink about going online, is angry or crying or irritable, and you need to see about sleep patterns, how they are eating and are they really just schlumping around and staying in the house and not getting out. All those are very good signs that may be some anxiety or depression associated with this.”

If you see those signs Dr. Preiss says talk with your child and their teacher to see what can be done to break the spell and get them on the right track.

And a final point she wanted to make sure you hear: A mask is only effective if it covers both the mouth and the nose.