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What Do I Do if I Want My Child to Wear a Mask, But It’s Not Mandated at School?

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Jill Amsberry,DO

Students will soon be heading back to the classroom, some with masks on. What do you do if your family has decided to wear masks at school even though other students might not be wearing them? This can be a tricky situation, especially if your school district doesn’t have a mandatory masking policy. First, it’s important you make sure your child understands your reasons for wearing a mask. Second, model the behavior you’re seeking and reach out to your child’s teacher to let them know your wishes.

Tips for parents navigating masks this school year.

  • It is lovely that so many families have healthy children with no underlying medical conditions. At the same time, I think it is essential for people to understand not all children are well. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that the COVID-19 pandemic can look very different for families with children at home who may be more at risk for severe disease. Sometimes, that is hard. Chronic disease is not always easily seen. Many children with chronic illness look just like healthy children on the outside. Inside, their bodies can look very different. Some families may choose to send their children to school with masks. Since it’s not harmful to the people around the person wearing a mask, we should never forget to be kind. I go back to the old saying by George Eliot, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” and Maya Angelou’s “try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
     
  • Some parents wish to send their children to school with masks for reasons that are very personal to them. For example, their child may have an illness that makes them more at risk, they may have a new baby in the home they are trying to protect or maybe they live with an elderly grandparent they are trying to keep safe. Parents might have questions about how to introduce that to their child. Children are much wiser than we realize. I encourage parents to be honest with their children about personal reasons they want their child to be masked at school. Once a child understands the reasoning for their need for mask-wearing, they are often much more willing to wear their mask. The other challenge about parents wishing to send their child to school with a mask is the school setting. This is where families, community members, educators, and leaders can help these students by leading with kindness and teaching compassion and understanding.
     
  • COVID-19 remains a disease worth preventing. Getting vaccinated is still the safest way to prevent severe disease from COVID-19. I would encourage families to contact their primary clinic to get their children on their COVID-19 vaccine series. In the early stages of the pandemic, when we had variants like Alpha and Delta, the COVID vaccinations helped protect against both mild and severe diseases. Since the Omicron variant has mutated away from our immunity, the vaccines don’t do as much to protect against mild disease. Still, they continue to protect us well against severe disease. We also have a booster available for children five years and older. The boosters can help to prevent mild illness for some children for a short period, somewhere around 3-6 months. However, we don’t see a significant increase in preventing severe disease in children because the first two doses still do a great job of that type of immune protection.

For more tips on navigating masking this school year or information on how to get your child a COVID-19 booster, contact your primary care provider via MyChart or call 320-200-3200.