Unmasking Peer Pressure

Empowering Children to Handle Criticism in the COVID-Era

kids wearing mask graphic

As kids head back to school in states where masking is left up to individual families, students may feel anxiety or pressure about wearing masks. Whether they’re masked or unmasked, kids could receive negative feedback from their peers who’ve made different in choices. Some parents worry there could be stigma, discrimination, or bullying due to wearing or not wearing a face covering.

Therefore, schools should have a plan to prevent and address harmful or inappropriate behavior. And caregivers can do a few things to prepare their children to stop bullying and/or peer pressure before it starts. Psychologist Ximena Flanders, PsyD, of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, offers these five tips to tackle any conflict that may arise from mask choices in school.

5 tips to empower children facing mask peer pressure

5 Tips to Unmask Peer Pressure


1. Develop a List of Responses

These should be simple and direct, but not antagonistic. Examples could be: "Leave me alone." "Back off." "That wasn't nice." Give your children these phrases to use in case another child confronts them.

2. Practice Makes Perfect

3 tips to empower children facing mask peer pressure

Role-playing is a terrific way to build confidence and empower your child to deal with challenges. Practice different responses until your child feels confident handling troublesome situations.

3. Promote Positive Body Language

Practice not only your verbal script response, but also practice strong eye contact, standing tall, and practice “brave” faces in the mirror. This will also promote self-esteem and confidence.

4. Strong Communication Between Parent and Child

2 tips to empower children facing mask peer pressure

Use a calm, friendly tone and create a nurturing climate so he/she isn't afraid to tell you if something's wrong.

5. Team Up With School

Align with school teachers, counselors and administrators in efforts to optimize your child’s return to school and throughout the scholastic year.

While prepping those backpacks and lunchboxes, make sure to have a conversation with your child before school starts, so they know what to expect. And how to handle any unwarranted comments and conversations.

About the Author

Flanders, Ximena Ximena Flanders, PsyD, is a pediatric psychologist specializing in pediatric health psychology at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. She received her doctoral degree from Nova Southeastern University and completed her pediatric psychology fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions presented in this blog post do not reflect the ideas and opinions of Memorial Healthcare System.