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Why Kids May Be Nervous About Ditching Masks — and 9 Ways to Help Them Adapt

By March 11, 2022No Comments

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new COVID-19 guidelines on Feb. 25, 2022, to help inform people’s individual decisions about wearing masks. The new guidance recommends masks be worn indoors only in areas of high community risk and allows approximately 70% of people in the U.S. – including some 19 million children – to ditch their masks.

Most, but not all, experts agree that these changes are appropriate at this point in the pandemic. Many people, weary of the pandemic and its restrictions, gratefully welcome this step, but relief isn’t universal.

In particular, children may worry about yet another change in the “rules.” After all, U.S. children have been consistently schooled on the importance of mask-wearing, and younger children may even have trouble recalling a mask-free world.

So how can adults help children develop coping skills to handle new rules as we navigate changes around mask-wearing guidelines?

We’ve spent the pandemic developing social and emotional resources to help children cope with pandemic-related increases in anxiety and digital technology use. We are both university professors; one, a researcher in children’s development and social relationships; the other, an expert in communicating with children through literature. Combined, our research can help develop more flexible social guidelines for kids and their mask-wearing.