Duke psychologist offers tips to ease kids’ concerns about going back to school

COVID-19 and schools

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As children head back to school in a couple of weeks, Duke scientists say masking is the best way to keep COVID-19 from spreading through classrooms.

But some children, especially those who attended school virtually last year, could be nervous about wearing a mask all day or going back to the classroom at all.

Robin Gurwitch is a psychologist and professor in Duke’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“We have to acknowledge that people would love to not wear any masks anymore — people are tired,” she said.

But with the delta variant surging just as children head back to school, Duke researchers say universal masking in schools is the best way to keep students safe.

“How parents discuss this issue with their children can have the biggest impact on their kids,” explained Gurwitch. “If parents are saying ‘This is why we are doing it; this is for our safety,’ then children are much more comfortable with it.”

Gurwitch said children take cues from their parents, and parents can help them understand the reasons behind wearing a mask.

“They feel like not only are they keeping themselves safe but their friends and their family and their teachers and everybody in their environment,” she said.

Some children will also be nervous about being back in the classroom, especially those who attended school virtually last year.

Dr. Gurwitch says it’s important to talk to children about what they’re looking forward to, as well as any concerns. She also says having a routine in place can help children adjust.

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