The air is cooler, the days are shorter, and the leaves are starting to brown. These are the usual signs of back to school season. This year however, our fall looks different. Many schools are implementing a hybrid model, and requiring both children and teachers to wear face masks for the duration of the day.
Some children suffer from phobias of people in costumes, face paint, clowns, or other mask-wearing characters. Living in a world where everyone around them is wearing a face covering can be frightening and anxiety provoking.
Young children require more facial cues in order to recognize people and read emotions. As adults, we can recognize each other despite the use of face masks. Children however, don’t start to develop this recognition skill until age 6. Young kids are also still learning object permanence, and may struggle to understand that masks can come on and off, and that those with masks on their faces still have a nose and mouth.
Here are some of our tips for relieving mask anxiety in your children:
- Turn masks into a superhero uniform: Show your children that doctors and nurses save lives while wearing masks. Then explain that by wearing masks ourselves, we too can save others by protecting them from germs.
- Practice at home: Help your children become comfortable with wearing a mask by practicing around the house.
- Let them choose their mask: Make masks fun for your kids by letting them pick theirs out. If a mask has their favorite characters or colors on them, they may even get excited to put it on and show their friends at school.
- Prove that people behind masks are not scary: Ease children in by wearing masks yourselves, and showing that even their most trusted adults wear masks. You can also show them photos and videos of others wearing masks while performing normal tasks, or put face coverings on their favorite stuffed animals to make masks part of their daily lives.
As a resource for you to utilize in minimizing your children’s mask anxiety, we put together this short video of friendly people living their lives while wearing masks!
We wish teachers, parents, and children alike a safe, healthy, and enriching school year!