An expert spoke with Local 4 and shared advice on how to discuss the topic with children. During the 2020 school year, masks were mandatory for everyone.
This year, there are different policies that vary between districts which means some children will be attending schools where masks are optional. As the start of the school year approaches, experts said it’s important to speak to children about the situation.
The children are stuck in the middle of an argument between parents and school officials. There has been disagreement and bitterness between the adults. Many wonder how much will carry over into school between the students.
“There has to be some sort of responsibility on the schools’ end to intervene, stop bullying and do their best to create a safe environment regardless of what the current situation is,” Dr. Matthew Lacasse said.
Lacasse is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Lacasse said much of the responsibility to stop mask bullying will fall on the schools.
“If kids are being bullied, it would be really important that the school do their best to take care of it. We encourage schools to have programs, anti-bullying programs. We also encourage the kids to talk about bullying with their teachers, with their peers, with their parents and to report bullying immediately,” Lacasse said.
Parents can reduce the risk of bullying by discussing the issue at home.
“Parents should really educate the kids about the decisions to wear a mask. It’s essentially all about safety,” Lacasse said. “It’s really important to teach kids that different people do things differently and different people have different reasons to do so.”
He said the discussion goes both ways.
“If they see, you know, somebody else doing something differently or saying something differently. What might that person be experiencing? What might that person be feeling? To make them say that, or to make them do that particular thing,” Lacasse said.
Lacasse said in general kids are pretty adaptable.
“Some kids wearing masks and some kids not might be a little bit odd. For the most part, I think kids are excited to get back to school to get into class,” Lacasse said.
Another child psychiatrist told Local 4 that it’s helpful for parents to help their children come up with a quick response in advance in case another child does question why they’re wearing a mask.
Having a response ready can help diffuse the situation and ease the stress kids may feel in the moment.