Post Pandemic? Everyone thought as the 2021-2022 school year began, we would be post-pandemic. But, as the new school year begins, the debate not only continues but is heating up. Do we mask or not mask in this so-called post-pandemic world. Have you stopped to think about how the children feel?
Put yourself in the shoes of an elementary school student preparing to start his/her third school year under the Covid 19 pandemic. First-graders through fifth-graders, ages 5 to 11, are old enough to see how their world changed dramatically in such a short time. The lives of elementary school students turned upside down just like everyone else during Covid-19.
Parents and school administrators, along with scientists and government officials, continue to debate and research the best methods to keep from spreading Covid-19. But, the advice from the CDC continues to change based on positivity rates and vaccination rates throughout the country.
Despite the continued mask debate, most students are headed back to in-person school. Everyone wants the country and the world to get back to normal. But Covid-19 is still present and now with the Delta variant does not appear to be going away anytime soon. Positive cases of Covid-19 are on the rise as the new variant of the disease creeps silently throughout the country and the world. In the United States, the Covid-19 vaccines are now available to everyone except those younger than 12.
Yet, the CDC (the Center for Disease Control and Prevention) made two conflicting announcements in July about students going back to school and the need to wear masks. At the end of July, the CDC changed its recommendation that everyone returning to class should wear masks regardless of vaccine status, which matches the American Academy of Pediatrics mid-July recommendation that all students older than 2 wear masks when returning to school this year, even if they are vaccinated.
The CDC announced two weeks earlier in July that fully vaccinated students did not need to wear masks in classrooms. Meanwhile, school boards and communities already eliminated mask mandates for students making masks optional.
So, what will so-called post pandemic school look like this year?
Many moms posted two first day of school photos last year – one that included masks and one without. The moms whose kiddos did virtual school posted the first day of school photos with their children in front of their laptops at the kitchen table. Will your children’s first day of school photos include masks this year?
The children have experienced many changes in the Covid-19 world: traditional school to virtual school, extracurricular activities ended, or switched to Zoom. By summer 2020, a few children’s activities around the country were being offered outside but only with masks. Many students continued online learning for the 2020-21 school year, while others attended school in person wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Most of the students who returned to in-person classes seemed to take it in stride as they wore masks and had temperature checks as they walked into school each day. Post pandemic, will the world look the same?
Did you ever think your daughter would be coordinating her mask with her outfit? Or that your son would insist on only wearing a mask with a superhero plastered on it? Did you think our children would still be debating whether to wear a mask or not a year and a half later for the 2021-22 school year?
What does it all mean? How many students will wear masks in school? If your family chooses to wear masks but most students do not, will you still send your children to school? Will it stress your child out to be the only one in the class wearing a mask? Will he/she actually wear the mask if no one else is wearing it?
It’s a lot. It’s as simple as that. The Covid world has been a lot for everyone, let alone those younger than 12. Yes, we all work to protect our children from the bombardment of news. But everyone now lives the news. For those children who take everything to heart, this continues to be a very difficult time.
Mask Anxiety in a Post Pandemic world
Just because you tell your children they do not have to wear masks to school this year does not mean they still won’t want to wear them. Children listen to the world around them. They know they wore masks to keep their grandparents safe, to keep themselves safe, to help stop the spread of Covid. They know which of their friends or family members already suffered from Covid-19.
Remember Spring 2020 and how it felt to wear a mask to the grocery store for the first time? Remember what it felt like seeing the majority, if not all the guests in the store, wearing a mask.
You could not see smiles. Voices were muffled. Glancing around as you neared another shopper’s cart, you wondered: She just sneezed. He just coughed. Do they have Covid? Will I catch it?
Children have feelings, too. Wearing masks was new to them. It was a learning curve. And, the CDC keeps changing its recommendations about who needs to wear masks.
Does that mean everyone who is not wearing a mask is vaccinated, which makes us ready for the school year post pandemic? Not at all. But it means more and more people are not wearing masks. After a year and a half of wearing masks, it can be stressful for little ones to see you not wear a mask because you are vaccinated.
For children who visited a museum on vacation this summer or shopped with their parents, many attractions and businesses requested unvaccinated people to wear masks based on the honor system. While other children traveled on vacations this summer and did not wear masks in restaurants or tourist attractions. Children younger than 12 are receiving conflicting messages about masks just like adults. This can be very stressful for them.
Be conscientious of your children’s feelings about masks. Be aware of other children’s feelings about masks, too. Perhaps, your family does not wear masks, but your friends or relatives wear them all the time no matter what. Think about how those children will feel being around you at a family get-together or at school if you or your children are not wearing masks.
Read More: The Post COVID Juice Cleanse & Detox
Remember elementary-age children are told what they have to do. They do not get to choose. Part of school is learning to follow the rules. The problem is which rules do they follow: Mask or No Mask?
Each and every family practiced social distancing and masking based on their state and local mandates, as well as their personal situation. The Covid world for a child who lives with a parent who works at the big-city hospital as a physician or a child who lives with an immune-compromised sibling is different than the Covid world for a child who has a stay at home parent and a parent who works at a small, family-owned business.
The choice to wear a mask or not remains a stressful decision for some and easy for others in this so-called world that is post pandemic.
Compassion and Kindness in the So-Called Post Pandemic World
So, after a year of wearing a mask to go to the store, to work, and to the doctor, how did it feel after getting the vaccine to not wear it for the first time? Did you feel unsure? Did it feel weird?
For those who have become used to wearing masks, it’s one thing to not wear them around family and close friends who you know are practicing Covid safety and promise not to get together if they have been exposed. But to venture into the school lunchroom or walking the hallways or going to a class where you do not know everyone, might be a different emotional experience. Your children will be around many children who may or may not have been practicing Covid safety.
And now, for many, after not wearing masks all summer and traveling to visit family, eating out, and having fun, they are being encouraged to wear masks at school again. No one wants to get sick. Everyone wants to enjoy their freedoms, but no one seems to know the right answer.
Be in tune with your child’s feelings more than ever as school starts. Talk to them about how they feel not only about class, their teacher, and their friends but if they feel comfortable wearing or not wearing a mask.
Post pandemic, we have to wonder, “will mask or no mask?” forever be the question.
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