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Doctor shares tips for helping kids overcome 'mask bullying'

Bullying in schools isn't new, but now, parents are raising concerns about their children being bullied over masks in the classroom.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Children across the country are heading back to school, and depending on where you live, they may be wearing a mask to school. 

Some districts are optional, and some states, like South Carolina, have laws that ban mask mandates in school. If your child wants to wear a face mask but is facing what many experts are calling "mask bullying," what can you do? 

Here are three tips parents can follow to help their kids if they're struggling with peer pressure over masks at school. 

1. Try not to be too vocal in front of your kids

"We advise that parents do not verbalize their conflicting opinions to their kids," said Dr. Carlos G. Paxtor. "So that they will not echo what the parents say. And when they go to school, they start making comments that may be hurtful to others."

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2. Lead by example

"If the kids are going to wear masks, maybe the parents wear a mask with them on the way to school, or in public. Just something so they don't feel alone," said Carlos Paxtor, a nurse practitioner and son of Dr. Paxtor. "Like they're not facing it by themselves."

RELATED: Charlotte mask mandate to start Wednesday, county-wide mandate could happen by end of month

3. Teachers are the first line of defense

"When they retreat from their daily activity level when they're sort of avoidant of others, that's a big red flag," Paxtor said. "If they're avoiding someone, usually a reason is bullying, and also [look for] changes in performance.

"It's very important for us to acknowledge that everyone has a choice, everyone has their own differing opinions here. So this is something that as parents, as teachers, we need to teach our children that this is something we need to be slowly sort of tolerant to others about how their views may differ from ours."

Dr. Paxtor said it's also important to remember everyone has a different reason for their mask. 

"If somebody wears a mask, he may not just be protecting himself or herself, but maybe protecting their grandparents at home, or some other people who may be at risk," he said. 

RELATED: VERIFY: These NC & SC districts will test for COVID-19 in schools

Contact Sarah French at Sarah@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.