On February 25, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released revised COVID-19 recommendations to assist individuals in making individual choices about whether or not to wear masks. In accordance with the revised recommendation, masks should be worn inside only in regions of high community risk, allowing nearly 70 percent of individuals in the United States – including approximately 19 million children – to forego their use of face masks.
The majority of specialists, but not all, think that these modifications are necessary at this stage in the epidemic. Many people, who have grown tired of the epidemic and its constraints, are pleased with this development, but it is not universally welcomed.
Children, in particular, may be concerned by yet another alteration to the “rules.” After all, children in the United States have been regularly educated on the significance of wearing a mask, and younger children may even have difficulty recognizing a time when they did not wear a mask.
So, how can adults assist children in developing coping skills to deal with new laws as we traverse the shifting landscape of mask-wearing regulations?
We’ve spent the whole epidemic building social and emotional tools to assist youngsters to deal with the increased anxiety and usage of digital technologies that have been linked to the pandemic. We are both university professors; one is a researcher in children’s development and social interactions, while the other is a specialist in interacting with children through literature. We are both married with children. Our studies, taken together, may be able to assist in the development of more flexible social rules for children who wear masks.
Moving forward largely mask-free
Children’s fear has increased significantly as a consequence of the epidemic and the many changes in school and public health policies that have occurred as a result of it, according to research conducted around the world, including Brazil, Europe, China, and the United States.
Because of this, it’s essential that parents and educators work together to produce consistent messaging for children that will offer consistency and stability, as well as lessen anxiety among all stakeholders, but particularly among children, as we negotiate the shifting mask rules.
Here are nine research-based strategies for creating and negotiating new social standards that might assist you and your children in reducing stress and anxiety throughout the holiday season.
- Help youngsters understand that masks must be worn in a manner that is appropriate for the individual and the occasion. There will still be numerous locations where children will be obliged to wear masks, such as doctor’s and dentist’s offices, even after the ban is implemented. However, in other situations such as schools, libraries, sports centers, and other social gathering places, masks will most likely be optional. The idea is to convey to them ahead of time that various circumstances will have different rules applied to them. When you know what to anticipate, it might help to lessen tension.
- Prepare yourself for instances when you may feel uncomfortable. People’s choices regarding whether or not to wear a mask are personal, so it’s understandable that various settings may make them feel uncomfortable in different ways. Picture yourself as a spectator at your child’s athletic event. There are a lot of uncovered parents who are sitting quite close together and cheering on their children. Alternatively, consider how you would feel if your kid received an invitation that said that masks were not permitted. Alternately, assume that you are compelled to wear masks while visiting your grandparents, but that you are uncomfortable with this practice. The key to each of the above situations is to foresee issues by asking ahead of time and seeking for alternatives such as physically separating oneself from the event or circumstance, concealing yourself for a short period of time, or politely excusing yourself from the event or situation.
- Prepare yourself for the possibility of encountering irreconcilable differences of opinion. Explain to your kid that in some cases, other people may have the authority to make these choices on their behalf. Hosts have the authority to determine what occurs in their house, and business owners have the authority to decide what happens in their shop. Many times, you have three choices: you may attend and honor the host’s requests, you can attempt to reach a compromise, or you can choose simply not to go. The practice of teaching your kid that the rules do not apply to them is generally not a desirable parenting method since it may result in disobedient or even harmful conduct.
- Insist on the fact that circumstances change, but that the fundamental ideas do not. When explaining the importance of following consistent principles, highlight that everyone must follow the same rules: (1) do what is safe for you and others, (2) plan ahead about various scenarios, and if anything is unclear, (3) seek for direction. Even if the laws for wearing masks change again, the practice of following these three basic stages may remain a steady constant in the lives of children for the foreseeable future.
- Respect, kindness, and concern for others’ choices about their comfort and safety should guide your actions. As mask laws and standards evolve, views on the appropriateness of mask-wearing will continue to be a contentious topic. While many people are eagerly awaiting the day when masks will no longer be required, others are filled with trepidation. Remind your youngsters that mask selections may be influenced by a variety of factors including personal preference and environment. Make an effort to avoid using judgemental or insulting words. Teach your children that bullying a child at school because he or she is wearing a mask may be just as harmful as bullying a youngster who is in a wheelchair or who has a disability.
- Answer your child’s questions ahead of time before various circumstances and occurrences. As an example, children may be puzzled or even unhappy if they attend a play date where masks are needed after attending a playdate where masks were not necessary the week before. When faced with these apparently contradicting circumstances, you may need to talk with your children about how it is courteous and considerate to comply with a mask request, even if the rest of the family does not. It is important to emphasize that there may be mitigating circumstances that are not immediately apparent. Give them a concrete example they can relate to, such as a family member who is much more susceptible to the infection.
- Keep an eye on your children’s anxiety levels. No matter how many masks are worn or how few masks are worn, tension is caused by the cascade of changes that occurs. To find out how your children are feeling, take some time to talk with them. Stress may manifest itself in children in a different way than it does in adults. Changes in their sleeping and feeding routines are among the things to keep an eye out for. Interrogate them about their feelings about school and their relationships with their peers in relation to mask-wearing.
- You should be clear and transparent about what you anticipate from your guests if you are throwing an event. Inform anyone who will be wearing masks in advance about your policies on masks: Is it a choice or a requirement? Provide folks who are uncomfortable with your expectations with a variety of alternatives wherever feasible. Suppose you decide that masks will be required for your kid’s birthday party. If the parent is uneasy with this choice, the youngster might come just for the outside portion of the celebration or even virtually attend.
- Check-in with the other adults that will be present. What is the rationale for your family’s decision to continue wearing masks? Is it because you have a member of the family who is immunocompromised, for example? Consider informing your child’s teacher about your family’s choice, as well as your reasoning behind it. Did your youngster get an invitation that didn’t include any mask instructions? Inquire with the parents about what they anticipate or expect their visitors to do. Open communication and regular check-ins may assist in keeping messages to youngsters more constant and can reduce the likelihood of an unexpected or unpleasant circumstance later on in their lives.
It is important to emphasize and model empathy and respect for others’ choices during this period, as this will help to build the type of normality and stability that will make youngsters feel more secure and comfortable.