With most states ending or easing up on stay-at-home orders, we are entering a new phase of the pandemic. Though new cases of COVID-19 still continue, most Americans are able to visit with family and friends, go shopping, go to parks, and participate in other activities that were previously restricted. Weighing risks and navigating precautions is difficult enough for adults, but for children it can be quite a confusing and frustrating process. How can we help our kids navigate these next stages?
Rhonda Martin, a licensed professional clinical counselor and regular contributor to Morning Air®, stopped by recently to discuss how we can help our children understand this new way of life with masks and social distancing, without instilling in them too much fear of the outside world.
Regarding mask wearing, Rhonda advised, “Kids need a habit and they just need structure, so that there isn’t a decision to make when they go to get out of the car to walk in somewhere with their parents. So the best thing to do is to have whatever their favorite mask is. It has to be one that they can breathe through, and experiment with many different kinds, but the important thing with kids of all ages is making certain that they perceive it as ‘That’s my mask. That’s what I wear, and I like that one.'”
“Just make it a consistent rule that every time you get out of the car you put it on. And then you’ll get to a point where you don’t have to have that conversation or say anything.”
For parents of younger kids, it can be difficult enough to find everyone’s shoes before piling in the car, much less making sure everyone has their mask in hand. But this is another area where Rhonda suggests that habit and routine can be your friend.
“When they get out of the car at home to go inside, be certain that you say, ‘Leave your mask in the car,” she said. “Just keeping that in a place they can always get it. And then, if you can, get a box of 50 just plain masks. Keep them in the console of the car so that if somehow someone does forget theirs at home or somewhere else, they can grab it.”
Kids of all ages (and many adults too!) prefer to see the world in black and white, to have rules so they know what they should do and what they shouldn’t. But this is one of those moments of uncertainty, where there still isn’t a lot of information, and it’s a good opportunity for kids to learn how to navigate situations in which they don’t have a lot of information.
“This is going to be a different kind of life lesson for those kids right now,” Rhonda said. “We don’t have so many facts right now because everyone is unsure. No matter how high the position they are in the government or in medicine, they will continue to say, ‘We’re all learning. We’re still learning in this process.'”
“And so with children, it’s a great time to explain to them that a lot of life has risks,” she pointed out. “That we don’t know if a problem is really going to come of it or not. And so we want to practice as safely as we can what we can do. Not only are we protecting everyone from COVID-19, but anytime a child doesn’t have a lot of facts about a decision they’re trying to make in their life, the same principles apply.”
Listen to the full conversation with Rhonda Martin below: