A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a then-new mask mandate that meant that there were no exceptions to wearing masks in the library. That’s still the rule now, but one thing that I wanted to do with that post that I couldn’t fit in was to talk about how we can help ourselves and our children adjust to mask wearing so it doesn’t feel like such a burden. So, I’m gonna do a bit of that today.
What I’ve found is that for grownups and teens, this is really about creating a positive mindset, while for kids it’s about comfort and gamifying the experience.
Mindset: Creating a positive mindset is all about resetting our brains to approach mask wearing differently. It is very hard to have positive feelings about doing ANYTHING when we are only doing it because we HAVE to. This is definitely true for me, since I never lost my teenage sense of rebellion and legitimately often want to do the exact opposite of what I’m told to do, simply because it’s what I’m being told to do... and you can’t make me (insert teenage sarcastic tone and dramatic eyeroll here). So, I came up with a list of things that I “get to do” because of masking that has helped me move past my former-goth-teen brain cloud. Here’s what I came up with to manage my mask wearing malaise:
Yay! It’s an opportunity to be kind to others: I can do something visible and immediate that shows I am working to keep my community safe. Really, I think this one is sufficient for me, but I have brainstormed more because on my most cantankerous days, I need them.
Yay! It’s an accessory. This will work only if you are wired to legitimately enjoy fashion and be in possession of a budget where shopping isn’t a stressor... not all of us are so lucky, but for some of us this has clearly helped already.
Yay! It’s a way for me to tell you who I am. You can get anything printed on a mask at this point (again, if you have the means to purchase them). Everyone who sees you will see it. It’s like your own private billboard. From political beliefs to fandoms, spread your passions far and wide. I’ve got an array of bookish masks because, you know, librarian *points at self.*
Yay! You can’t tell me to smile any more ‘cause you have no idea whether or not I already am under here. It’s freedom of a different kind: freedom to glower at the world if we want to! (Ladies, this one’s for you.)
Yay! It’s an opportunity to craft. I now have a practical reason to make stuff. If there are budget limitations to crafting, deconstructing thrift store finds or stash busting is an option.
What other ways can you think of?
Gamification and Comfort: It’s all about creating a sense of play around mask wearing for our kiddos. This is a much simpler concept than mindset. It’s the mask equivalent of hiding the medication in the jam. Fortunately, the state of Oregon provided a really solid list of tricks for parents to use, provided here in its entirety and annotated by yours truly:
Let your child choose and decorate their mask. Yay! Agency. In a world that I have little power to influence because I’m still tiny, I can make a decision about something. Also, once a child has multiple masks to choose from, parents can offer a binary choice that results in the desired outcome no matter what decision the child makes: “Would you like to wear the red mask or the blue mask today?” In so doing, a choice is presented but “no mask” isn’t an option.
Try different styles to see which is the most comfortable. Yay! Agency with a side of bodily autonomy. Encouraging our kids to express what is comfortable and what is not can give them the words they might need to articulate discomfort to you should their safety and comfort be compromised when they are out of your care.
Put a mask on a favorite stuffed toy or draw one on a favorite book character. Yay! Crafts. Yay! Creative Play.
Introduce the mask when everyone is relaxed but not too sleepy. Yay! Timing is everything.
Practice wearing the mask at home to help your child get used to it. This also allows for a slow, gradual increase in wear time. Yay! Time together. Practicing together (even though wearing masks at home isn’t the norm) allows parents to model mask wearing for their children.
Play some “let’s pretend” games with characters who wear masks. Make up a world where superheroes wear masks on their mouths instead of their eyes. Yay! Make believe.
Point out other people wearing masks while you’re out. Yay! It’s like a game of I Spy!, pandemic style.
You get the idea, fun and connection is the key. What other ideas can you come up with? Also: ask your child, is there anything they can think of that would help?
Library staff are grateful to our patrons for the ways in which they’ve adapted as the pandemic has progressed. We are in here, breathing the air, all day long... your mask wearing allows us to stay healthy, and every time someone puts a mask on and keeps it on when they are in our spaces, we appreciate your support. Let’s continue to practice kindness and empathy to get through this together.
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