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Tackling Face Mask Anxiety with Children

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have experienced anxiety, sadness, and stress. Playgrounds and parks have been closed, we’re staying distant from friends and family, and stores are closed. While these changes have affected us all, one of the most visible changes is people wearing masks or face shields. For children, the sight of someone wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) can be frightening. Your child may have been required at some point to wear their own PPE, and many schools will be requiring PPE this Fall. We’ve gathered several ways you can talk to your child about wearing or seeing others wear PPE. 

Be available to talk and listen to their questions

Keeping kids in the dark about what is happening may cause them to worry even more. Let your child know that you are open to conversation and check in with them periodically. Reassure your children that as changes happen, you’ll be sure to keep them updated. 

If you think giving your child too much information could be overwhelming, ask them what they know first and clarify what they respond with in more detail. By knowing where to start, you can set a good baseline for where to begin a conversation. Ask them how they are feeling and if they have any questions. You can decide what information to give your child depending on their age and maturity level from there. 

Seeing someone else wearing PPE may be triggering for children, especially if they are not leaving the home much. Validate these feelings in your child and let them know the reasons why people are choosing to wear PPE. You can explain that people are working hard to protect themselves and the vulnerable people in our population. Below are a few age-specific ways you can talk to your child. 

Five and Under

As you explain why people are wearing PPE, consider calling these people “helpers”. Helping and sharing is theme your child hears frequently at school and in educational television programs. By calling people wearing PPE helpers, you can reframe something that may be scary into something positive. 

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