The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all kinds of social norms, including ones inside the classroom.
As students head back to school this fall, there are ways parents can prepare their kids so they start out the year on the right foot.
“I think it's better for the parents to decide. I mean, nobody knows better than the parent of that child so I think that they should allow us to choose,” said parent Jennifer Myers. “For right now, I'm gonna probably have them wear their masks the first quarter, just to see how that goes.”
“I mean, as Americans were supposed to be able to have freedom so why should we be forced to have to wear a mask,” said parent Adam Styles. “If they feel they want to wear the mask, then by all means go ahead but if they feel that they don't want to. I don't feel they should be forced to do it.”
So how can kids navigate all of the changes?
“You need to be a chameleon. You need to be able to change your colors,” said Colleen Harding, the president of the Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol.
Harding said the 2020-2021 school year will be all about respect and compromise.
“Etiquette's about other people. It's how we teach our children to thrive in different environments. And that means thinking outside ourselves,” said Harding.
Harding said students should stick to the school’s rules regarding masks.
“When you go to school and they dictate that you have to wear a mask, you have to do it. And it's just what it is. And fighting it isn't going to do anything but make everybody uncomfortable,” said Harding.
If not, don’t judge others for their decision to either wear one or not wear one.
“Just because one person wants to wear a mask does not mean they should be judged differently. If they're not, they're not saying that they're afraid of you. They're basically saying, I'm trying to stay safe and this is what I feel comfortable doing,” said Harding.
Harding also suggests practicing polite responses with kids at home for other situations they might be faced with.
I think we need to teach our children to be polite, and this is a great opportunity to show them that we need to use courtesy and use the two words, ‘no, thank you,’ and ‘yes, please.’ Those can come in handy in these situations and we need to teach them that we are not asking you to say no thank you, because we don't want you to enjoy the treat or the snack or the blocks or the tissue or whatever it is that’s being offered. We're just using extra precautions to stay safe,” said Harding.
Harding also suggests students don’t discuss vaccination status with other students because it can turn into a negative situation.
“It really is about avoiding any confrontation that might present itself. And because that is such a toxic topic right now, because people that believe in it believe in it strongly, people that don't believe in it believe in it strongly. So it's just best that you stay neutral. Switzerland,” said Harding.
Repetition isn’t just for social skills.
“You have to practice at home before school starts,” said Dr. Richard So, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, of teaching young children how to wear a mask properly.
So said practicing is key for things like hand-washing and other hygiene habits, like coughing.
“Cover your mouth and your nose. Ideally with a tissue and with these kids too, throw the tissue in the trash. It seems like common sense, but sometimes that's not so common,” said Dr. So. “I would practice that at home. You can start that at age three and four. So even preschool and pre-K, you can teach your kids, ‘hey, catch it,’ and then you reward them. ‘Hey, good job. Nice catch.’
Dr. So said it even works for mask-wearing, which he said is the best form of COVID etiquette of all alongside getting vaccinated.
“I want parents to send your kids with two or three masks that fit a child. That's going to be very, very important,” said So. “Because where does the mask typically fall off? On the bathroom floor. And you don't want that mask back on your kid's face.”
So is encouraging parents to make the mask-wearing process fun for their kids by allowing them to pick out their favorite at the store, and purchasing masks that properly fit their child’s face.
He also encourages students to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, including after removing their masks to eat lunch. He said hand sanitizer is the next best thing if soap and water are not available.
“If they feel they want to wear the mask, then by all means go ahead but if they feel that they don't want to. I don't feel they should be forced to do it.
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