Wearing Masks is social story from challengingbehavior.org that tells children in easy-to-understand language why it is important to wear a mask right now. The downloadable PDF booklet uses beautifully descriptive photographs to bring into focus the role of masks in everyday life, before CoVid19 and now, after the pandemic. It is not trying to scare children or intimidate them into using a mask; it is normalizing a behavior that for most of us was not normal four months ago. It certainly was not normal for children to cover their noses and mouths before going into their classrooms or a grocery store.
We teach children to wash their hands to prevent germs and to brush their teeth to prevent cavities. We teach them to keep their straps buckled in their car seats, even when they are old enough to know how to unfasten them. We do a hundred different things to keep them safe and mostly, these things are regarded as standard practice backed up by research and our own good sense as parents and caregivers. No one bucks against children learning to use a tissue and then throw it away, or not eating a popsicle that fell into dirt. It’s pretty easy to make the connection between what we do (or our children do) and their safety and health.
So what is the thing about the masks? You all know that some Americans won’t wear them because they think that the mask is an infringement on a civil right, a right to freedom of expression. Yet there are not protests or movements to recall elected officials over ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’. We all seem to get that one. Also, mostly you can’t smoke anymore in a public place because it can make other people around you sick. You have a right to smoke, just not next to me. We all seem to ‘get’ that.
I’m wondering if the social story needs to be for adults, not children. Yes, it is a new experience for children and so we want them to be unafraid of it, to realize the health reason behind, to get used to it in the same way that they need to wear close-toed shoes instead of sandals to preschool. We want them to be safe and minimize their risks to the greatest degree possible, within our power.
So adults, wear the mask. I have no doubt if Mr. Rogers were here, he would have a mask on as he did his show. Tom Hanks, who played Mr. Rogers, says “Wear a mask”. Bill Nye the Science Guy says “Wear a mask”. The nation’s top expert on infectious disease says “Wear a mask”. Let’s show children what we all need to do to keep them safe, keep their parents and grandparents safe, keep their teachers safe.