Adjusting our sails



Everyone hoped this school year would be a more normal year. We hoped that masks and social distancing would not be needed. We were cautiously optimistic. And then the Covid-19 numbers started to rise. The Delta variant surfaced, and even children and young adults were becoming sick more quickly. It became time to adjust the sails, as we moved into the 2021-22 school year. Masks were back and so was social distancing in schools – but we were still in school.

School leaders continue to do what they feel is in the best interest of the safety and welfare of students and staff. They adjust the sails as they feel appropriate with the input of area healthcare leaders. Just as with any major topic of discussion, children look to you, their parents, and trusted adults for an opinion – something on which to model their own beliefs. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (March 2017), “For many children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers. Children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships, or when making difficult decisions.” Please try to remember that as you have adult conversations and talk around the dinner table.

Would we laugh, critique, or criticize others for wearing a coat outside when it is 50 degrees, and we feel a sweatshirt is all that is needed? Would we question modifications for someone who is disabled and needs extra assistance? Would we argue about practicing fire drills, just in case? Would we roll our eyes about someone wearing a mask to protect their immune compromised family member who is undergoing chemotherapy? No; we would not do any of these behaviors because we are trying to do what is best to support each other, our individual needs and personal circumstances. We are constantly trying to model positive behavior in our words and actions.

To help children better understand mask-wearing, consider the example of a surgeon. Explain that “the reason why surgeons wear masks, even though they themselves feel perfectly healthy, is that it cuts down on the risk of passing off an infection to the patient undergoing surgery. This creates a positive role model for wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19….In fact, there is something we regard as almost heroic in the image of the surgeon in her surgical gown and mask” (Psychology Today September 2020).

Children showed their resiliency last year as they adjusted to mask-wearing. Encourage and support your student to be their own heroes, doing what is asked of them by their teachers and school administration. Remind them that they may be protecting people they do not even know, but who are medically fragile and loved by their family members. Be the hero role model your child is looking up to.

Holly Parod, MSW, LCSW, serves as Youth First social worker at St. John The Baptist School in Newburgh.