Is hiding harmful to the mental health of our children?

K MotherI am deeply interested in the ongoing issue of disguise and its effect on our children. K Clinical psychiatristI feel compelled to give my voice – and some of it matters data-for discussion.

My hope in doing so is to provide relevant information to people (especially parents!) that they may find useful as they navigate difficult situations, evaluate their options, and make important decisions. in Part 1discussed the potential effects of concealment on children’s social development knowledgecommunication and social skills; Here, I address the implications of masking for their mental health.

Respect my self

When a young child engages in a team game suddenly feeling left out, he may make an instantly recognizable frown as his lower lip sticks out in an inverted U shape.

A parent or teacher from across the room might see this frown and ask the child what happened, help him express his experience and perhaps direct him to practice skills to handle the situation (“Let’s tell Grayson it’s not a good idea to take toys away from people, but we’ll also tell him he can play with the toy at In five minutes so you two can share it.”)

Likewise, when a young child discovers something simple and wonderful, like the joy of building a 10-block tower, they may display a playful, contagious smile — motivating the parent or teacher to approach, smile, squeeze their chubby cheeks and say, “Yeah, you’re building.” amazing Tower, right?! “

These experiences subtly tell children about their experience Others matter. Even if we an act Read the situation despite the masks and show empathy As we walk to help, a child cannot read (or even see!) kindness On our faces as we approach. Nor can a child who took the toy learn from our faces that his behavior elicited a very specific response in the adults around him. It is difficult for this child to learn that his behavior is perceived as harmful to others.

We can convey this in words – but kids are often somewhat verbally ahead of time, and sometimes there’s really nothing As a friendly face for saying a thousand words in one moment.

izusek / iStock

Source: izusek / iStock

Of course, the child’s experience matters to us, even if the child is persuasive. But by hiding the baby, we lose one of the baby’s main tools communication experience us. Therefore, we may become less responsive inadvertently.

As adults, we understand that people do not respond to our smiles or frowns when we are masked because our facial expressions are largely invisible. It is difficult for children to constantly take this into account – moreover, in the examples above, the child is not necessarily consciously looking for an adult to respond. Adult response is an unexpected improvement of a child’s experience that simultaneously shapes social cognition while also communicating with the child issue.

I’m concerned that removing a major component of our ability to notice and respond to a child’s face show happiness Or distress may inadvertently create an environment that is unresponsive to children’s basic facial expressions, posing a threat to them Respect my self.

Emotional flatness

I afraid that if facial expressions frequently fail to elicit normal supportive responses by adults or children’s playmates, facial expressions may become less useful. Children may become less inclined to make them with the same frequency or intensity as before we started to hide them for hours on end.

In psychology, the facial feedback hypothesis states that while some facial expressions arise from emotions, feelings can also be informed by facial expressions. Sometimes your body “knows” how you’re feeling first (that’s why putting your face in a sad expression can make you sad, and smiling more often can improve your mood).

I am concerned that tampering with children’s ability to have rewarding social and emotional experiences through regular facial expressions can lead to decreased facial expressions and emotional flattening where children are simply less emotionally (and socially) with the world around them and within them.

Niko_Cingaryuk / iStock

Source: Niko_Cingaryuk / iStock

anxiety and depression

Factors covered in Part 1 And the second part of this post can create a sense of isolation and detachment – paving the way for depression And the worry (The Surgeon General’s recent report confirms a rise in these issues for children since the pandemic).

If children do not have opportunities to learn to deal with social situations when adults do not respond to their invisible facial expressions, and if children are deprived of normal “face-to-face” social interactions, how are we to be surprised when they feel increasingly isolated and disconnected?


I’ve heard parents say that they have been instructed by “professionals” that it is best for their children to act as though frequent hiding is fine and normal. After all, kids take their cues from adults they trust.

In turn, I am concerned that signaling to our children that regular and constant masking of their nose and mouth is healthy or normal invalidates their normal awareness that covering their faces, as well as effectively blinds them to the facial expressions of others. Not “Natural and healthy”, especially in an environment where Children are generally not susceptible to serious harm from Covid Adults have a choice of vaccines and antiviral treatments. Some parents say their kids “love” to wear masks – however, some teens also like to lock themselves in their rooms all day while wearing candy bars, and parents don’t accept that as natural or healthy. part of the work Adolescence Overcome embarrassment with yourself, and get over it sometimes introverted (far away , Introversion increases vulnerability to depression and anxiety). Just shrugging our shoulders and saying, “Oh, kid says he likes to wear a mask so I guess that means he’s okay,” doesn’t reassure me as a psychologist.

I understand that the pandemic has not been easy for anyone, that there are exceptions to every rule, and that there is no magic medicine. Everyone should do what is appropriate for their particular situation, and I all support parents weighing their options before making which choice is best for their families. But as a clinical psychologist and mother, I felt the need to share these worrisome points—especially because speaking on the side of fears about hiding children seems somewhat taboo in our current climate. I want the parents to at least have knowledge that there are other points of view. I really welcome ideas from all sides, and this article is in no way intended to be exhaustive. The point here is just to raise awareness about the potential effects of hiding children, especially for multiple hours a day on a frequent and ongoing basis.

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