The school mask debate’s effect on children

The debate over masks in public schools is putting increased pressure on our children. It puts them in a pretty terrible position, in which their parents may be telling them to do one thing while their schools mandate that they do another.

Cindy Doth, a school and youth outreach manager for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, says kids are especially influenced by their peers at a young age, and this many conflicting opinions and rules can lead to kids becoming burned out and desensitized, just like adults can be. They don’t really know where to go or what to think. It’s important, she says, to set a good example for them.

“Students right now feel this division of loyalty, right?” Doth said. “They’re wanting to be loyal to their parents, follow their parents’ rules and expectations. And they’re also wanting to be very loyal to the school, wanting to follow the rules and wanting to fit into their peer group. And so there comes this internal struggle with students when what the school is requiring… is different than what the parents are requiring. And that internal conflict then can create some anxiety.”

A psychologist told WINK News that no matter how you feel about mask mandates, this move by Lee County might actually be healthier for the social aspect of schools: There will no longer be only certain groups of students wearing masks, leaving them to be picked on or ostracized by others. The School District of Lee County is not dropping its mask mandate, as we have seen a 1,000% increase in weekly classroom closures only one month into the school year.

“I would encourage parents to continue to role model the behaviors that they’re expecting of their child,” Doth said. “That we’re treating each other with kindness and respect. We’re listening to other people’s opinions and ideas. We don’t have to like them, but being able to hear them out, respect other people’s ideas and opinions, is key. And that, in itself, can help reduce some of the anxiety that adolescents are experiencing.”

LCSD has a page dedicated to school counseling and mental health services on the District website.

Reporter:Michael Hudak
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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