So here is what I know as summer is coming to a close. The thought that I had for fall is a distant dream, the thought of “well by fall this will all be back to normal”. Turns out - I was completely wrong. It seems like some of the changes may be sticking around for waaayyy longer than any of us thought.
I also know that there is absolutely nothing uniform about how we all are approaching fall and the return to school. Even in my small community things are widely varying from school to school. Some are going hybrid, some all back, and others completely distant.
What I also know is that Minnesota recently enacted a mask mandate statewide that will impact children going back to school. All of it is tough. Staying home. Wearing masks. Distance learning. Going back to school. Every. Single. Bit. I also know, we can do hard things.
I was searching for something to help make meaning for children that were going back to school and would need to wear masks. Aaannd you know I am always down for a good metaphor so here goes!
Okay, so I LOVE the movie Finding Nemo. Trauma, adventure, healing, danger, reunification, growth…it has it all! One of the scenes that I keep coming back to is the scene near the end of the movie where Nemo is just reunited with his father after a whole movie of searching and the big nets come down from above and Dory is scooped up in the finishing net. WHAT! WHAT?!? This is the dramatic tension that only Pixar and Disney can produce.
Okay, so what happens next *spoiler alert*. Nemo uses the problem solving skills learned from the dentist’s office tank to rescue Dory. He says “swim down”, because he knows that working together will help not only Dory, but everyone. All together they swim down breaking the net arm off the boat (I’m sure it has a technical name but I don’t know what it is) and the net is set free! All the fish go spilling back into the ocean. Sweet freedom! See all the action for yourself HERE!
So you might be asking….what does this all have to do with masks? Great question! Sometimes it feels like COVID-19, social distancing, masks, sheltering in place, and a complete disruption of life as we know it miiiiiight feel like the distress and restriction of being in a net, trapped, not going where you want to go, and doing the things that you might like to do. Okay - am I the only one who got a little emotional watching that clip in the midst of COVID-19?
AND we also know that the way to get through this is together. Everyone playing their part – scientists, policy makers, and yes even young people who are wearing masks at school and out and about. This can launch into a good discussion of what “being in the net” feels like for them as well as all the key players. For those artistic kids you can launch into some really great metaphor drawing. Also, problem solving what skills the child has (like Nemo) to get through this! This conversation can help young people feel a part of something. Also – any time we can introduce metaphor or video clips to session, I’M IN!
What metaphors are you using to talk to your young people about wearing masks? How are you talking about this with your clients? Drop a comment below to share!
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I'm Ann Meehan, an LPCC, RPT-S, and EMDR Consultant. I help other therapists grow in their passions as play therapists, trauma therapists,and child and adolescent therapists.