Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: how to help your kid deal with feeling singled out with mask-wearing.
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Dear Scary Mommy,
My daughter just started third grade—she hasn’t been in school in person since first grade—and after just a week, she’s already hating it because she says she’s the only kid in her class wearing a mask. I don’t think the mask-wearing itself bothers her because she’s worn one without any issues for over a year. It’s the fact that she’s the ONLY kid wearing one. She said the teacher wears one, but none of the other kids do, and a couple of them have even teased her about it. I know that addressing these things as a parent can often fan the flames of bullying and further ostracize her, but I also don’t think it’s OK to just let kids make fun of other kids for trying to stay safe during a pandemic. She doesn’t want me to intervene, but my heart aches for her. She also says she wishes she didn’t have to wear it, and seems frustrated that she has to. I don’t know what to do.
Unfortunately, this is going to be a common problem for a lot of kids and their parents this year. State governors have left the mask mandates up to schools, and schools are leaving it up to parents. None of these people in power want to be the “bad guy,” so they’re throwing kids and parents to the wolves instead. It’s bullshit, it sucks, and I’m truly sorry. It’s especially frustrating when so many parents and kids sacrificed SO MUCH last year only to have the government and their schools seemingly just shrug off safety measures this year, when the delta variant is has made things even more dangerous.
I know your daughter doesn’t want you to intervene, and I completely understand why. Is it possible for you to find out if any kids in other third-grade classes are wearing masks? If so, it might not be a bad idea to ask if she can switch to being in a classroom with them. Even if it’s just one or two other kids, they’ll at least have one another for support. Herd mentality is a very real thing, as we know. When you’re outnumbered in a certain situation, even if what everyone else is doing is wrong or irrational, being singled out feels crappy.
If switching classes isn’t a possible solution, all you can do is continuously encourage her and reassure her that the safest way for kids to stay in school, in person, is by wearing masks. If that many kids aren’t wearing them at her school, well, it’s highly likely their education will continuously be interrupted with COVID closings and quarantines. Hopefully, her school changes their mask policy. But if they don’t, and many schools probably won’t, I’m genuinely sorry to say that she might feel this way throughout the entire year. After a few weeks, other kids probably won’t care or notice anymore, or they’ll move onto something (or someone) else in which to inflict their poor manners.
If she’s truly struggling with this, and it’s very valid if she is, look into finding a child therapist if you’re financially able to. They can validate her (and you) while teaching her coping skills to get through the year, and that will likely help alleviate any resentment or stress at home. Consider sending a letter to the school to ask them about changing their mask policy—here are some sample templates you can use.
Good luck, Mom. Please know you’re not alone, and give your little girl a hug from me.