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Helping Kids Deal With Mask-Shaming At School As They Return To The Classroom

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The battle over masking in schools has been raging outside schools and in school board meetings. Now it is starting to surface in the classroom.


A local father who wants to remain anonymous says his child has been bullied in school.

"Students who wear a mask to school, are being bullied, being shamed by other students, and to the point where they finally remove their masks," he says.

This is exactly what he doesn't want his child to do in a school district that has active COVID cases and he says is not handling the situation as well as they did last spring.

"Currently there's no social distancing, there's no physical realignment of the desks, children are just continuing on business as usual is if there's no pandemic surrounding us," he explains.

CBS News medical expert Dr. David Agus says mask shaming starts at home.

"I mean a lot of times kids do what their parents tell them to do," he says. "Mom or dad say 'you need to wear a mask' they wear a mask and other kids' parents can tell the child, 'listen, it's weak to wear a mask it does nothing' and so, unfortunately, you're not getting educated decisions or discourse."

Cleveland Clinic Pediatric Psychologist Dr. Vanessa Jensen says parents should use the issue as an opportunity.

WATCH: Interview With Dr. Vanessa Jensen

"Teach kids early that people have different opinions, and every family is different," she says.

Dr. Jensen says reinforce your view, like if you want them to wear a mask tell them, "we believe it's important, but also telling them, Some kids don't have those family beliefs, their family looks at, they're very healthy. They're not worried about it, and that's okay."

It's an important point because you want to defuse, not fuel any dispute between your child and another in school.

Dr. Jensen says remember your child is a reflection of you.

"So if we as parents are worried and anxious and seem upset, they read that they're going to pick that up," she says.

So how do you help your child handle pressures from other children at school?

"You know you can give them little tiny sound bites, don't overthink it," Dr. Jensen says.

"Help them understand that if kids say, why are you doing this, you know, my 'go-to' for my kids, who are grownups now, is blame your mom or your dad. You know, 'why are you wearing a mask?' My mom says it's important. Well, why? 'I don't know my mom says it's important, and my mom usually is right,'" Dr. Jensen adds.

She says kids who are not wearing a mask should be prepared too.

"Why aren't you wearing a mask. Well, my dad said, I don't really need to. My mom says I don't really need to. And for little kids. That's all you need," she explains.

That's great for elementary-age children but Dr. Jensen says, "You get to middle school when kids start asking more questions."

It gets more complicated and more hurtful.

"Well, my mom or dad said, this is stupid, or my mom says you're stupid for not wearing a mask, or you can get some more of that. Teasing bordering on bullying," she says.

Ultimately she says you want to teach them to follow your lead, and not engage in reverse bullying.

"Kids can say, okay, that's your family's choice," she says. "That's cool. You know, I respect you for doing that. We can still be friends, we can still play. You know we don't have to make everything into a big deal."

You also need to help them understand they are not going to change someone else's mind on the masking issue.

So, stand their ground, agree to disagree, and walk away if the confrontation gets to be too much.

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