New Jersey's school reopening situation still has plenty of time to change and evolve before September, but one requirement seems set in stone: If in-person classes are to resume in the fall, teachers and students must wear masks whenever and wherever possible.

Nobody necessarily likes that, said Dr. Steven Tobias, director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown. But he said most adults now seem to understand it is a necessary move to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

That being said, according to Tobias, it will be relatively easy for educators to comply with mask mandates.

Kids, especially younger ones, are a different matter entirely. Tobias said it will "absolutely" be difficult for children to keep their masks on.

The key to juvenile mask compliance may lie in adults setting a steadfast example, Tobias said, and that starts with parents during the summer.

"I think that what we have to do is just establish mask-wearing as the new norm, as this is just what we do," he said. "When enough people are doing it and it becomes the norm, so that if you're not doing it, that makes you uncomfortable, that's what's really going to help everybody."

And if mask-wearing can be portrayed as trendy, all the better.

"You want to make it a fashion statement? I have no problem with that," Tobias said. "But just accept it that this is what we're going to do, this is what our society is going to look like."

Masks might only be temporary — or they might not be, as they are customary in public in certain areas of Japan, among other countries. So children should also understand that this new accessory may hang around for a while, whether they like it or not, Tobias said.

"Part of being in society is accepting some restrictions on your behavior, and I think this is one of those restrictions that I think we just have to socialize kids to accept for now," Tobias said.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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