How to help your children deal with ‘mask shaming’

Mask mandates in schools vary between districts

As children return to the classroom, many are concerned about being bullied for wearing masks if they are not required.

DETROIT – As children return to the classroom, many are concerned about being bullied for wearing masks if they are not required.

Read: Tracking Michigan school districts, colleges requiring masks for 2021-2022 school year

Dr. Vanessa Jensen, a pediatric psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital has some advice.

“I think parents can do a lot to help their kids understand,” Jensen said. “And maybe this is a good thing in a bad wrapping, teaching kids early that people have different opinions and every family is different.”

Jensen said parents can coach their children on how to respond. For example, a child can say their parents want them to wear a mask because they think it’s safe and that they trust their parent’s opinions. Or they could say they have a sick relative at home.

Related: Experts share tips on how to prevent bullying over mask use in schools

Jensen said if your child does start to ask questions about why they have to wear a mask, make sure you explain it to them in a way they can understand. They don’t need to be complicated. The same advice goes for the COVID vaccine.

Another tip is to model good behavior for your children. If they see you are accepting and respectful of other people’s opinions, they are more likely to be as well.

“If kids don’t want to wear masks and they say, ‘My family says it’s OK not to,’ kids can say ‘OK, that’s your family’s choice. I respect that. We can still be friends. We can still play,’” Jensen said. “We don’t have to make everything into a big deal.”

If teasing turns into bullying and it started to impact your child’s mental health, you should talk to the school.

More: Michigan COVID news

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You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.