While COVID-19 has undoubtedly altered all our lives in ways both large and small, it’s possible your children are feeling a hidden impact much more deeply than you realize.
Think about it: their entire world, and the way they are seeing the world, is different now.
One day last spring, all was normal and reassuringly the same in their lives – a regularly recurring schedule of friends, teachers, school and extracurricular activities – and then the next day all those things were gone. Our children had lost access to crucial resources, experiences, and support networks. That’s a lot of change for young minds to try and understand.
However, change isn’t always bad, and can sometimes be used to teach valuable lessons to our children.
Now that the school year is starting again, in whatever capacity your school district has planned, both parents and children are most likely thinking about masks. Some are concerned about wearing them, while others are concerned about others not wearing them.
There is a lot of information swirling around, and it’s difficult to sort through it all sometimes, but one thing is clear: wearing a mask helps stop the spread of the virus. It is well worth your effort to teach your children to embrace this important change in their lives.
Initially, it may seem to be a difficult thing to tackle. However, kids are amazingly adaptable and incredibly perceptive. They learn from the world around them. If the new “normal” is to wear a mask, and they observe their parents wearing one, they will accept that a mask is a normal article of clothing to wear.
Here are a few tips from Dr. Heather Weber, a pediatrician at INTEGRIS Family Care at Council Crossing, on how to introduce this concept to your children.
Make it a game.
Start with a limited amount of time and reward your children with something they like for wearing it.
Make it a competition.
See who can keep their mask on the longest.
Normalize masks.
Everyone in the family (including favorite stuffed animals) should wear a mask so your children can learn that it is normal behavior.
Make it exciting.
Have your children pick out their own colors, their favorite patterns, or make their own masks. You can even help them tie-dye a mask!
Have a conversation about fear.
Begin a dialogue with your children to discuss why they might be concerned about wearing a mask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This may lead to deeper conversations about other anxieties around the pandemic, so consider finding a counselor for your children if needed during this time.
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Talk about the importance of taking care of others.
Explain to your children that wearing a mask is not just a way to protect ourselves, but a way to protect others — both strangers and the ones they love.
Discuss the future.
Remind your children that uncomfortable situations happen in life, but often, these situations are temporary, and then they go away. Just like masks will one day. We won’t be masking forever (but to our children, it might feel like it). Remember that this is an opportunity for them to learn a difficult life lesson at an early age.
It is up to us as adults to lead by example, and to help them understand that they can do this, even if they are afraid! We can teach them that sometimes life is hard and a little uncomfortable, but if we all come together to help one another and do what is right, things will get better.
For more information visit the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics.