There are many reasons why people are refusing to wear masks. Some reasons cited are because people are rebellious by nature, some feel it forfeits their personal freedom, it’s a walking symbol of vulnerability, the messages by government officials regarding mask wearing is confusing, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s admitting that life as we knew it no longer exists. Another publication suggested that people have “mental fatigue” and just want to get back to their typical life and routine.

In times of heightened uncertainty, we tend to seek out unity and belonging. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at the NYU School of Global Public Health, he says that it cuts both ways. He asserted that “Those who don’t wear masks may feel a sense of solidarity, and those that do likely regard it “as an act of altruism and a way of helping each other out.” There were similar reasons noted for both mask wearing and socially distancing as to why individuals are refusing.

A major reason why an individual would be willing to wear a mask is because they truly feel empathy on a visceral level because they are to some extent personally impacted by COVID.

I have seen patients who have lost loved ones (mothers, brothers, uncles) to the coronavirus, those who were extremely ill and close to death, and health care and essential workers who felt their lives were threatened.

I also have a 100-year-old grandmother in a nursing rehabilitation facility, who I haven’t been able to visit with since March and who has significantly deteriorated due to depression stemming from isolation and loneliness. It hits home for me. The longer this pandemic exists, the greater the chances that I may never see my grandmother again. Every day is precious because of her age and frailty.

For me, and many others, it is a lot more than our freedom, vulnerability, or comfort. It is personally relating to it and upholding the values of love and kindness to others and consideration of the greater good. I also think about the messages I want to model to my children and the benefits and lessons they are afforded with by leaning into these core fundamental values.

These are important mindfulness and life lessons you may strongly want to consider linked to mask wearing that you can help to teach your children:

Consideration of the greater good. Teaching kids that they may be doing something that they feel uncomfortable with or that they don’t want to do, but in committing to do so, they will benefit their greater community and potentially many people. It further teaches them that sometimes there are tradeoffs and that the world doesn’t revolve around them but also others that they need to be considerate of.

The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. If only some of us do it, it won’t lead to maximum benefits and results. This is the essence of “teamwork.” It’s only going to be significant if we can unify and work together.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable and it can actually benefit you. This holds true on a physical and emotional level. Being present with discomfort forges resilience, grit, and improved coping skills.

Life evolves so we need to as wellEverything is temporary. Including joy, pain, and circumstances. Be in the present moment with what is. The reality is that we’re currently in the midst of a serious pandemic that has killed over 530,000 worldwide, and over 132,000 in the US and will continue to kill more if we’re careless. As much as we want to get back to life as we know it, we can’t because it isn’t life as we know it, and as much as we’re fatigued by our current circumstances, we have to deal with it, because that is what’s going on in the here and now.

Trusting in science and the medical community. Leading authorities from the medical community are stipulating the need for mask wearing and social distancing based on scientific research. This can lend to teaching kids about trust for medical interventions and the greater medical community so that they hopefully follow up in adulthood with their annual exams, preventative health screening tests, immunizations, etc.

Avoid having attachments. Teaching kids not to get caught up in their “shoulds” and ideas about the way things ought to or must be. Teaching kids the need for flexibility and not getting too attached to ideas and things are valuable lessons. As we now see life can change on a dime and we have to be able to bend and pivot based on the circumstances that we’re presented with.

Life is full of human suffering. Suffering is part of life. We all suffer because it is part of the human condition. All we can do is manage as best as possible and get the support we need and deserve. Kids are typically very resilient; they fare even better when resilience and perseverance are modeled to them. That can include acknowledging thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are prompted, and giving ourselves self-compassion throughout the process.

Asserting values and needs are necessary, even if it is not approved of, liked, or is the popular position. They may see their peers and other people doing things differently and may experience “missing out.” They will learn that if something is meaningful enough, it’s worth asserting their needs and position. They don’t have to compromise their fundamental values and needs just to fit in and be approved of by others.

The value of health. That kids can make compromises for the sake of their health because of how utterly important health is to us. That they can proactively do things to prevent and protect their health. Whether it’s wearing a mask and socially distancing, exercising, eating healthfully, taking vitamins, etc.

Almost everything is a process. Most things don’t change overnight, and usually entails a gradual process. We have to see the process through in order to see long-term progress and change. Just like them learning to skate, play piano, drive a car, or earn a diploma. This is going to take time and they will eventually see change, and especially if individuals do their part.

If you want something bad enough, you need to dedicate concerted time, consistency, and effort. If they continue to do their part, each gesture they enact will facilitate change and improvement. They witness that as a family, that you are all willing to do that collaboratively and support each other through it all.

Helping the vulnerable and those in need. That even though they are likely to be physically okay if they contract it, that others may not be so fortunate. If they can possibly prevent that from happening that they are directly assisting those that are vulnerable. Also, they are leaning into their kindness, thoughtfulness, and care values because that is fundamentally who they are, and who they want to be. It additionally feels satisfying to be conscientious, caring, and asserting positive behaviors.

There are many critical lessons that your children can learn by your family extending themselves and wearing a mask. Through adversity and pain, there’s room for substantial strength and growth. This time has undoubtedly been challenging and we can all relate to fatigue brought about by this pandemic.

These are incredible teachable moments which could further connect you to your children because you are all doing something collaboratively to protect and show deep care towards others. Kids that tend to thrive are the ones that learn to adjust to adversity, change, and the unexpected. You could use these moments and future ones to instill flexibility and agility which will serve them well now and throughout their lives.

Blog posted on Psych Central.