“Do as I say, not as I do”, and other convenient old-school parenting sayings might come in handy right about now…now that we need kids to continue wearing masks, even though many people have decided to ditch theirs.
With the recent surge in Covid cases, we find ourselves in a precarious situation as we enter the new 2021 school year. Many believe that the current state of the pandemic may be even worse and more divisive than the last year and a half when we were all on the same team fighting the war: People vs. The Pandemic.
Kids of 2021 know they have rights. I doubt many of you remember the show from the 1980s, Kids Are People Too? (I spent A LOT of time on the couch as a kid…good for you if you were actually playing outside.) Nowadays, kids are treated like people too AND, we need them to understand that even though they are “people too”, the rules for other people may be different than the rules for them… especially when the other people are vaccinated.
You may find yourself yearning for yesteryear – a time of, “Because I said so. Case closed.” It would be SO much easier if these empowered little people, growing up during a deadly health crisis, would just stop arguing and put on their freaking masks. Sigh.
And since kids learn by our example rather than by what we tell them to do without doing ourselves, be prepared to be called out by the obvious hypocrisy.
Your kids may ask why they are required to follow different rules than their grownups or older sibs, “why should I wear a mask?” they ask. When it’s a matter of health and safety, it can feel extra exhausting to go round and round with them. These progressive little humans, raised with voices and worthiness, are making life very inconvenient for us by questioning the validity of the mask rules when other people are choosing to go maskless. I think it makes sense that they might push back about following rules that many people have decided are now arbitrary.
To avoid unnecessary power struggles and mask drama, here is my guidance when it comes to navigating this issue with your kids:
The 3 Step Productive Convo with Kids About Masking Up:
1. See Their Perspective – I think I can speak for most of us when I say we crave fairness and are incensed by injustice. Personally, I will immediately see red and become defensive when someone imposes a rule on me that they, themselves, choose not to follow. I highly doubt I’m alone on this. Our kids are no different. Therefore, begin the conversation by seeing your child’s perspective rather than attempting to parent with controlling methods or justifying why the rules only apply to them. This will allow you to work together, create a plan and diffuse potential mask drama.
- “The different rules for kids when it comes to wearing masks doesn’t seem very fair, huh? You’re probably sick of wearing a mask and now with so many vaccinated people not wearing masks, maybe it doesn’t seem fair that kids are still required to wear uncomfortable masks? It might seem like we should all just continue wearing masks until everyone is vaccinated. Do you feel okay about wearing a mask to keep yourself safe from the virus regardless of whether other people are masked or not? What are your thoughts on this?”
2.Actively Listen – Listening and really hearing another person is one of the most loving and generous acts. All humans seek validation…we want to feel seen and know that we matter. When you actively listen to your child, they will feel connected and much more likely to problem solve rather than argue and power struggle. Active listening requires attention, presence, and mirroring. This step does not involve your words of wisdom or teaching about the vaccine or mask rules. Simply listen attentively, reflect and mirror back in your tone and facial expression that you really hear their words and their message.
- “You’re sick of wearing a mask. It does feel unfair even though you understand it’s for your health. Ya, makes sense. I get it. This pandemic has gone on for way too long. You’re. Over. It.”
3.Problem Solve Together – Collaborative problem solving creates a team or “we” mentality rather than one involving “me vs. you”. Begin this step by asking “what” and “how” questions to encourage your child to be the leader on their mask plan. This will empower them to take ownership of the choice to keep themselves safe and mask up!
- “What will you do if you are in a public place and other people aren’t wearing masks?” “How can I help you remember to bring a mask before you leave the house?” “What do you think our plan should be to make sure you always have a mask available?”
“What we focus on grows”, so remember to end the conversation with hugs and “atta boys”. Letting your kids know how responsible they are for always wearing a mask, continuing to be patient during such a “less than awesome time” and keeping their bodies safe and healthy can really go a long way in building your connection and ensuring cooperative behavior.
Kids are smart and resilient and when we communicate with them in respectful ways that treat them as people too, they buy-in. You got this!