It's not the way five-year-old Max Massogo imagined his first days in kindergarten; masked up all day long with his classmates at his north Raleigh elementary school.
"I don't like it," he said.
Max's mom, Amanda, now doing her best to manage Max's emotions.
"It's stressful! I mean, he comes home and complains about it. Like I feel like most kids do. I mean, he's five," she said after his expectations for the school year were dashed by the new COVID surge.
"It's hard to explain why I told you a couple of months ago, you weren't going to have to wear a mask, because that's what we were told," Massogo said. "They can't talk at lunch... "We just found out yesterday, they have to now wear masks at the playground during recess."
"He always wants to know why. Well, why did it change? Who made the rules? Why can't we make the rules? And it's, it's hard to explain that."
“I just tell him, if we do the right thing it will end. And I hope that’s true.”— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) August 27, 2021
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As parents navigate their child’s emotional whirlwind of another COVID-restricted school year, we talk to mental health pros about coping tools for families • AT 11 #abc11 pic.twitter.com/GozOdFc7Th
Family psychiatrist Dr. Mehul Mankad providing tools to cope with the frustrations of back to school during COVID.
"I think children were expecting a lot. I think we were all expecting a lot," Mankad said.
He suggests parents start with listening and acknowledging their child's stress and anxiety -- without judgment. Mankad also recommends parents find ways to empower your child.
"To bring up the ideas that are under the kid's control -- what sorts of things do the kids have the ability to enjoy or participate in either at school or after school or on the weekends," said Mankad.
He also urges parents to give their kids a lesson in empathy: That their teachers and principals are doing their best under the circumstances they've been given.
"What your child may not realize is that all of these rules are subject to change. And we hope that they're subject to change for the better," said Mankad.
Back at the Massogos, mom and Max hoping for better days.
"I just try to hype him up, and just tell him that if we do the right thing, it will end," Massogo said. "And I hope that that's true. I gotta hype myself up too."