The Medical Minute: Unmasking Strategies to Help Children Navigate Mask Views
“Masks are for sissies!” “Where’s your know-it-all mask?” This fall, add comments like these to the list of childhood taunts heard in the playground and in the classroom.
Long a polarizing issue among adults, masks have become a source of contention for children and, sadly, a perfect setup for bullying, with kids taking inspiration from what they hear their parents say at home.
âWhat creates a situation of bullying? Anything that sets a child apart from their peers or makes them appear weak, anxious or unable to defend themselves, âsaid Dr Ramnarine Boodoo, child psychiatrist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. âWhen you superimpose political and social opinions, it becomes even more difficult for children to navigate through it all. “
Evolving information on the effectiveness of masks – now essentially proven as more scientific evidence becomes available – has unfortunately helped fuel the idea that some still argue that masks don’t work, Boodoo said. “We now have a great deal of evidence which shows that wearing a mask is not harmful to health and is very effective in preventing transmission,” he said. “However, not everyone believes it.”
The Pennsylvania mask warrant may actually help alleviate bullying since most students are required to wear a mask at school, Boodoo said, but it still leaves room for ridiculing students who can’t. wear a mask for medical reasons and those who choose to wear a mask when not necessary, such as during games and group activities outside of school.
âMaybe this child has someone in his household who is more vulnerable, which is why he always wears a mask, but other children might see this child as being afraid of catching an illness or trying. to isolate himself from the group, âBoodoo said. âIt can leave children feeling anxious, guilty and vulnerable. “
Here are some steps parents can take to reduce the risk of bullying, he said.
- Equip your child with tools that will help them stand up to a bully. âIf you are the parent of a child that you want to permanently hide, make sure your child knows the reasons and can explain it to anyone who ridicules them,â Boodoo said.
- Chat with the parents of your child’s friends. Explain why you choose to have your child masked even outside of school (“My wife is on chemotherapy”, “My elderly mother lives with us”) and ask: “Can you please work with it?” us on it?
- Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding. âThe spirit of robust individualism has become such an important part of American ethics that we may have reached a point where we can no longer even tolerate ourselves,â Boodoo said. “Instead of seeing people as uneducated or ignorant, ask them to explain their position so that you can develop understanding.”
- Speak with school officials if you notice any irregularities in the way mask policy is administered. “If the teacher does not agree with the masking and turns a blind eye to children who are not wearing their masks properly, it can create a situation where these children can brag and feel empowered to bully other children. “said Boodoo.
In cases of bullying, the child should be held accountable and this discussion should include the importance of respecting others, he said. School officials should assess what might be behind the bullying. âIs the child being bullied at home or are there other troubling factors in their family life? Said Boodoo.
Above all, parents should remember that they are the best role model for their child.
âWhat you do, your children will. Your opinions will become their opinions, âBoodoo said. âIt can be a real teaching time where you can explain your views and why others may think differently. “
At the end of the day, we live in a free country and, when not mandated, it’s a personal choice to hide or not – and that choice should be respected, he said.
“This is another teaching moment about democracy, which is not about everyone getting what they want,” Boodoo said. âWe must teach our children that everyone is free to defend their own choice, but it must be done in a non-violent way and without harming our neighbors.
In other words, no bullying.
The Medical minute is a weekly health article produced by Penn State Health. The articles showcase the expertise of faculty, physicians, and staff, and are designed to deliver relevant and timely health information of interest to a broad audience.