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Talk to your children about wearing a mask at school

If your school district is ending its mask mandate, here’s what you need to know.

School bus: Line Of Kids Boarding Bus

Many school districts are ending their mask mandates for the 2022-2023 school year — and while those policies may change as the school year progresses, it’s probably time to ask yourself how you talk to your kids about going maskless at school.

Some children may be happy about no masks at school, especially if they are old enough to remember maskless classrooms. Other children may be hesitant — and some parents may be hesitant, too. “You and your family still get to decide what’s best for your child even if your district goes maskless,” explains parenting coach Deborah Porter.

With that in mind, here are some questions that may come up as you and your kids prepare for the upcoming school year—and some expert-driven answers to help your family make the best choices possible.

In this article:

Should your child wear a mask to school?

Just because your school district ends its mask mandate doesn’t mean your child should immediately stop wearing a mask to class. Some families may choose to keep their children masked, especially if someone in their household is immunocompromised or at higher risk of complications from covid.

“If you choose to keep your kids in masks, normalize it,” advises Jennifer Thompson, executive director of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. One of the best ways to help your child feel comfortable wearing masks at school is to continue to mask yourself—even if your workplace no longer requires masks, and even if many of the places you visit as a family have gone mask-free.

“It’s important to show kids that masking is still a normal part of life and that it’s okay to do it in public, even when not everyone is,” says Thompson. “When your child sees your family masking on a routine basis, it creates good habits that are easy for your child to follow when they are on their own.”

Other parents may find that while they are ready for their child to stop wearing a mask to school, their child is reluctant to make the change. In this case, parents can use public health information — including, if possible, information from your child’s school district — to talk to children about how COVID-19 has changed and prepare them for the transition.

“Explain to your child why your district is going maskless,” says Porter. “Having information will help them be empowered.”

“Explain to your child why your district is going maskless. Having information will help them feel empowered.”

—Deborah Porter, parenting coach

Does your child want a mask for school?

Parents may be able to help their children build good habits, but children also pick up habits from their peers – and if the majority of students go to school without masks, your child may want to follow suit. “Kids who are masked can feel alienated when they return to school,” explains Thompson. “Make sure they know they can talk about it and their wishes to remove masks if they want, and you’re open to the conversation.”

Porter suggests starting the conversation by explaining the school district’s recommendations—and then asking your child how they want to respond. “Ask your child what they want to do. Don’t assume you know.” This gives your child the opportunity to feel heard, instead of just being told what to do.

In some cases, you can come to an agreement with your child. In other cases, you may want to encourage your child to make a different decision. Either way, your child is likely learning something important. “Asking your child if they think they should wear masks to school builds critical thinking,” says Porter. “It also teaches your child how to speak to the boundaries of their own body.”

Thompson agrees. “Give your child the freedom to make choices. It’s okay to tell kids when to wear masks—like if they’re on a crowded bus or inside with lots of friends and less space. It’s also okay to let kids make choices about when they want to take off the mask—if they’re on break, for example, or sitting at their desks. Giving them the autonomy to make choices increases their awareness and can help empower them.”

What are your family’s rules about when to wear masks?

Giving your child the opportunity to choose when to wear a mask is important. It is also important to clearly identify the situations where face protection is not optional. “Set house rules about vacations and vacation planning,” advises Thompson. “No one wants to get sick before a trip and risk it – or put their family at risk.”

Once you’ve established your situational boundaries around mask-wearing, social distancing and other Covid-prevention strategies, Thompson suggests presenting your family’s rules — whatever they may be — as a joint plan. This is what your family does before big events, and you do it so everyone can enjoy the experience together.

“Letting the kids know that for two weeks leading up to a Disney vacation we’ll be wearing masks all the time at school so we can make sure we get to go on our trip is helpful,” explains Thompson. “It reinforces something they’re excited about and helps keep them focused on being safe for the event.”

How should one behave around families who follow different masking rules?

Your family’s masking rules, both for everyday interactions and for special situations, will likely differ from other families’ masking requirements. This means that your children may have questions about why they are being asked to do something that their friends, cousins ​​or classmates may not have to do – or vice versa.

If your child is the one wearing the mask, help them feel proud of the family’s mask requirement. “Role play what might be comfortable and safe answers to friends and others who might ask why they’re wearing a mask,” Porter explains. “For example, I wear my mask to protect my grandmother who lives with us.”

If your child is the one asking why other students are still wearing masks, help them understand that many families are making different decisions about masking right now. “Normalize masks and differences in masks as we do religion and other family dynamics,” advises Thompson. “Keep it simple by saying all families see and do things in different ways.”

If you’re concerned that a family you interact with regularly may be making public health choices that put your family at risk, remember that you have options. You can always mask yourself and your children, suggest outdoor activities or – if necessary – reduce the time you spend with this particular family.

Likewise, if you’re concerned that a family in your social circle is overly cautious about masks, remember that they may be dealing with issues that put them at higher risk. Either way, avoid dismissing or belittling families who don’t follow your own masking rules. “When we talk negatively about others in front of our children, they pick up on it,” Thompson reminds us.

Your kids will also find out how you feel about masks—and, more importantly, whether you’re open or closed to discussion. No matter how you end up talking to your kids about going to school without a mask, try to keep an open mind. This is especially important if your family’s mask rules don’t match what your child’s classmates or peers are doing, and your child is asking you to reevaluate your decisions. You will also want to prepare yourself – and your children – to address your risks if the covid situation changes for the worse or if an indoor mask requires reintroduction again.

“Kids are navigating some pretty big emotions with school and masks,” says Thompson, “and need to know they can come to you with any concerns.”

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that navigating life insurance decisions, your personal finances and overall well-being can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency supported and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe that navigating life insurance decisions, your personal finances and overall well-being can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less difficult if they fit your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to provide tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide and should not be used for tax, legal or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to obtain advice from their own tax or legal advisor.

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