Here are some tips to help support students coping with the mask mandate change

Students working at their desks

Recent changes to California’s school mask mandate may prompt a range of feelings and emotions for students, parents and educators.

While some are experiencing a sense of relief, others may be feeling stress or worry. Here are some tips on how to support students, courtesy of OCDE and the county’s Regional Mental Health Coordinator Team.

Provide facts

  • Provide students with updated and accurate information regarding changes to reduce misinformation shared between students.
  • Reference the California Department of Public Health’s latest guidance for the use of face coverings.

Process the change

  • Reassure students that feelings of apprehension due to change are normal.
  • Redirect students to focus on choices that have remained within their control in the midst of changes
    • Example: Remind students they still have the choice to wear or not wear a mask.

Promote empathy and respect

  • Encourage students to be compassionate and respectful of others’ decision to wear or not wear masks.

Talk about feelings

  • Invite students to share their feelings.
  • Validate and normalize what students are feeling.
    • Example: Consider saying, “Changes may lead to experiencing different emotions. What are some feelings you are having?”

Model problem-solving skills

  • Support students in identifying settings or situations where masks are required or optional. Additionally, guide students in exploring their comfort level when masks are optional.
    • Example: Consider saying: “Let’s explore situations in which we feel comfortable wearing masks. Now let’s explore situations in which we feel more comfortable not wearing our masks.”

Identify coping skills

  • Introduce students to coping skills they can utilize when feeling stressed, nervous or anxious.
  • Lead students in activities that promote relaxation, such as deep breathing exercises in the classroom.

Access mental health support staff

  • Remind students of mental health support staff on campus.
  • Reach out to your mental health team members if you notice students with prolonged or extreme emotions associated with the change.

Provide students opportunities to ask questions

  • Students may have worrisome thoughts about specific situations, and they may feel uncomfortable asking questions in front of peers. Provide opportunities for students to ask questions in private.

Additional resources

If any student is experiencing depression or anxiety, there are a number of free resources that are there to help. Here are a few:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-8255 is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline that’s available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. It provides Spanish-speaking counselors, as well as options for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
  • The Crisis Text Line. The Crisis Text Line is the only 24/7, nationwide crisis-intervention text message hotline. Text HOME to 741-741.
  • OC WarmLine. Available 24/7, the OC WarmLine is a free and confidential telephone service providing emotional support and resources to Orange County residents. Call 714-991-6412.
  • The Trevor Project. Founded in 1998, this is a nonprofit organization that focuses on crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. Call 866-488-7386, visit www.thetrevorproject.org or text “START” to 678-678.
  • Teen Line. Professionally trained teen counselors provide support, resources and hope in an anonymous, nonjudgmental space. Call 310-855-4673 (6 to 10 p.m. daily) or text “TEEN” to 839-863 (6-9 p.m. daily).