Pandemic. COVID-19. Social distancing. Aerosols. Face masks to protect us from other people’s germs. Face masks to keep our germs to ourselves. Gloves. Frequent hand washing. Hand sanitizer.

Businesses closing. Work hours cut. Jobs lost.

No school. No playdates. No friends. No sports. No birthday parties. No hugs from grandma. No visits with grandma. Always home.

This is the world we are living in. This is also the world we are raising our kids in.

In our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, we’ve been forced to make our children part of a worldwide mental health experiment. No opting out. No control groups. No placebos. No hypothesis. No good “I won’t hold you to it” guesses of how it’s all going to turn out.

My kids’ mental health is suffering. And I don’t know what to do.

Case in point, my 6-year-old.

The caboose of our family, what she lacks in size, she more than makes up for in personality. A “leap without looking” kind of gal. And she takes no guff from her 3 older sisters.

As a family, we’ve been wearing masks when we are in a public indoor place where social distancing is not possible. For our protection and to protect others. Like Target. Or McDonalds. Or the speech therapy clinic she attends weekly.

She’s also now terrified of people (adults and kids) not wearing a mask or otherwise covering their nose and mouth. Like last week at her speech therapy appointment, a little girl no more than 4 approached her to say hi. By my daughter’s reaction (clinging, tears), you would of thought a zombie had approached us. She’s afraid of those too. Zombies, that is.

We’ve had lots of age appropriate conversations on why we are wearing masks. Heck, even Elmo has talked to her about wearing masks. We’ve also had several conversations with her about the risks of COVID-19 for kids and healthy adults. The punchline being that most people get mild cases or don’t show symptoms at all.

No matter how many times we explain it to her, or how cute the mask, the message she is internalizing is the same. Someone not wearing a mask is a danger to her (and her family).

There are some things even a cute star print can’t fix.

Her anxiety has manifested itself in other ways. She frequently says “I love you” to everyone in the family. Sweet, yes, but worrisome when it’s her go-to conversation starter. She also asks many times a day “when is the coronavirus going to be over.”

Yes, we’ve discussed this with her pediatrician and other professionals. And no, we don’t watch or listen to news when she is in ear shot.

Her struggle has got me thinking. What sort of trauma are the measures to curb COVID-19 inflicting on our children? Will our children grow up to be overly-cautious and germaphobic adults?

Is the cure worse than the disease?

Wish I had the answers to those questions.

And this brings me back to the question of my daughter and masks.

As her mother, which should I be more concerned about? The risk that she may contract COVID-19 or pass it on to someone else? Or the risk to her mental health and development if I continue to insist on wearing a mask?

I’m still pondering this one.

What about your kids? Is their mental health suffering? What has been their reaction to wearing a mask (or other people either wearing or not wearing masks)? Do you think kids should wear masks when they return to school in the fall?

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