Masks off, Anxiety up? Expert tips to help children transition to mask-free living in Hong Kong
So how can parents and caregivers make this process easier – for children and for themselves? Beyond getting them to agree to remove their mask, you can support children by putting your emotion-coaching hat on: that is, by helping them transition emotionally and socially to their new mask-free lives.
As a Parental Coach at Moments that Matter, here are my four top tips to help you do that:
Talk about it
The first step in helping your children adjust to their new reality is talking about it with them. Have an open dialogue about what life was like with masks and what it will be like without them. Explain why masks were necessary in the past and why they are no longer required. Answer any questions they may have and make sure they understand the reasoning behind it.
It’s natural for children to feel anxious when faced with change and uncertainty, so it’s important for parents to accept those feelings as valid and provide reassurance that everything will be okay. You can point out that even though things look different now, many safety protocols are still in place – such as washing hands frequently and staying home when sick. We’re still looking after our health, only in different ways. To help them acknowledge their fears, you can remind them that getting sick is part of life too! And that if and when that happens, you’ll be there to take care of them and make sure they recover as quickly as possible.
Be a role model
Children often take cues from their parents, so make sure you lead by example when it comes to transitioning back into a mask-free life. If you’re feeling nervous or anxious yourself, talk openly about those feelings with your child so that they see that they are not alone in their emotions. Show them your transition process and explain the steps along the way; this will help boost their confidence to follow your lead!
Give them time and space
If they’re not ready, acknowledge it and try to understand what’s behind it. Masks can provide a sense of protection for shy children, they can cover imperfections of teenage skin, they can create a feeling of privacy amid a busy Hong Kong life. Help your child understand their underlying emotions and provide support for as long as is necessary. With younger kids this might be a couple of hours; with older kids, it may take several days.
The transition back into a mask-free life is a helpful reminder that change – even when it’s for the best – can be an uncomfortable process. We encourage parents and caregivers to see this as an opportunity to connect with their children’s emotions, support them, and build up their resilience for any other changes that life may bring!