As COVID-19 cases climb among kids, the debate over masks in school continues. One of the leading concerns for parents against masking up the little ones is their emotional development.
A new study is shedding light on whether masks will block their communication skills. The University of Wisconsin Child Emotion lab looked at kids ages 7-13. They were shown pictures of people wearing face coverings and asked to assign emotions. The kids got it right about 66% of the time.
In short, the study found kids under age nine tend to study the eyes instead of the mouth, and researchers found when context is added, the kids can figure out the emotion.
They don't see masks causing long-term damage.
ABC15 Health Insider and mental health expert Dr. Emily Bashah agrees.
She says the real work happens at home when the masks come off. Her advice is to play with your kids and don't park them in front of the TV. If they look upset, she says don't assign their emotion, have them explain how they are feeling. She reminds parents that kids learn the most by watching.
"They really learn to express emotions and communicate non-verbally with their eyes, body language, voice tone...they pick up on a lot," said Dr. Bashah. "When you're talking to your child, really maintain eye contact. When you're busy, your face is turned, they're missing social cues of being able to read your face and body if you're not facing them."
Dr. Bashah says you can teach context to your kids with body language. For example, slumped shoulders and a tilted head often indicate sadness. Big arms, shoulders back and chest open demonstrates a more happy or excited attitude.
As always, take any developmental concerns to your doctor.