If you’re a Buddy, you already know the kids we serve have complex differences. We also know that many of those differences aren’t visible to the eye. For example, the kids we serve may live with a health complication you might not even know about. We’re not sure why, but it seems that some kids who are autistic seem to catch more colds and viruses than their non-autistic peers. Kids who have Down Syndrome often have heart disease and other factors that place them at higher risk for various infections. And there are certainly many more examples amongst the varying needs of our little buddies.
We know that this season is especially difficult for families with a loved one living with a compromised immune system. We also know it’s a difficult season for special families who may already feel the sting of isolation in everyday life—even before quarantines. These two poles can put parents of children with complex needs in a difficult place. Do we try to give our child controlled opportunities for fun and socializing to help avoid regression? But if we do, how can we lower their risk of infection?
LifeKids Buddies, you have the opportunity to reach out to the families you serve with extravagant love and kindness. Let this Scripture be your guide.
Don’t be selfish … Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3-4 NLT
Is it fun to wear a mask? Mostly no. Could it offer even a little protection to the little love you’re serving? And maybe even an extra layer of peace of mind for their parents? Mostly yes!
Here are some ways you can put the needs of the child and family you’re serving first.
1. Reach out to the parents. Don’t put the burden on the parent to ask you if you would consider wearing a mask while you’re working closely with their child. The parent doesn’t know how you’ll respond. Mask-wearing has, sadly, become a topic that is polarizing or even angering for some. Eliminate any potential fear a parent might have about broaching a potentially difficult topic with you by making a simple call, text, or email. It could go something like this:
Hello! I just wanted to reach out and let you know that I’d be more than happy to wear a mask when LifeKids opens back up—especially since I work so closely with Jayden. I’m not sure if every LifeKids leader will be wearing masks. But I thought you might like to know that since I’m always so closely connected to Jayden, I can wear a mask to hopefully keep anything I might have been unknowingly exposed to to myself!
2. Reach out to the child. Okay, right about now, you’re probably thinking: Oh my goodness. The kiddo I work with will NOT like it if I show up in a mask! How will they recognize me? What if they just pull it off my face anyway? And these are excellent, valid thoughts! Here are a few ways you can help the child you serve to get used to what you might look like in a mask—and what it might look like to do LifeKids together while wearing a mask.
a. Send a video. Record yourself saying hello to your little buddy. Then, say something like, “Look at me! I can wear a mask!” Then, put on your mask. Then say something like, “My mouth and nose are covered, but I can still talk to you!”
b. Send pictures. Take pictures of yourself with your mask on and your mask off so the parents can show this to their child.
c. Have fun. Maybe you can FaceTime or use another video platform to have a little “meet-up” with the child you serve before they get to church. Play a game like peek-a-boo with your mask a few times. Then, put it on your face.
d. Be prepared. Bring a spare or two with you to your classroom. You should be able to get a spare from your campus, but you will want to let your LifeKids staff know beforehand. If your little buddy wants to touch or hold your mask, give them the spare to touch and hold. That might help satisfy their curiosity.
3. Let your LifeKids staff know. Wrap back around with your LifeKids staff. Let them know about the conversation(s) you’ve had with the child you serve and their family. Let them know about any decisions you and the family you serve have made about masks. LifeKids staff can make sure you have the masks you need for making any videos to send to your little buddy, and for use on the weekends. And, most importantly, LifeKids staff will be able to walk you and the family you serve through any additional questions or concerns that you may still have.