You might be wondering to yourself “What is masking & how do I help someone who masks?”
Well not to fear, Chewigem is here to help!
You might have heard of masking and the burn out that can follow. Masking starts at a very early age when our children try to survive the social chaos that is school! It is often thought that girls are the ones who mask, but that is not true. Both boys and girls can and do mask. Guess what? Men and woman do too!
Like I’ve said above it starts at school. Imagine being 4 years old surrounded by (at least) 30 other 4-year-olds. That’s just one class. You’ve then got that 6 more times! Some kids don’t fit in at all. My daughter is like this. She makes no apologies for being different and doesn’t care that she doesn’t fit in. She has never bothered to try and quite rightly so! But not all children are like this. They sit on the edge of a friendship group and copy their peers. This is called social masking. And it is so hard to spot. Social maskers will copy what their peers are doing. They’ll copy clothes, hairstyles, toys, games, interests, language … everything. So how do you know if someone is masking? It’s really hard to spot.
Maskers will usually cope in school. That doesn’t mean that they are coping. It means they are pretending to cope. There is a big difference. So to teachers and school staff, there doesn’t look to be any problems or concerns.
Maskers tend to explode at home. You’ve heard this analogy before. Imagine a bottle of pop. All day it’s being shaken up but the lid is keeping the fizz from exploding out. Once your child gets home and essentially takes the lid off the bottle of pop it all comes exploding out!
Home is a safe place and you are a safe person. This is where they feel comfortable and so this is where the mask comes off.
Masking is exhausting.
When they get home from school don’t put any extra social demands on your child. Let them relax. Create a sensory calm area for them. If they are quite active then maybe a trampoline or punchbag to get some of their pent up frustrations out.
You may find that your child manages pretty well at primary school age but secondary school can be a different matter. Secondary schools are bigger, louder and much harder environments to cope in. Secondary school tend to have hundreds to thousands of pupils. Different teachers, different classrooms, lots of change.
You may notice a difference in your child when they reach secondary school age. And on top of this transition, their hormones will start to play havoc.
Masking teens can be extremely hard work. You may have a child that continues to mask their way through the school day and comes home and explodes as usual. Only now they have homework and hormones. On top of this, they may have problems with executive functioning – my son really struggles with this. So he’ll mask all day at school, come home exhausted and not want to do anything. However, he has homework to do and a bag to pack for the next day.
Most parents will tell their kids to get their homework and bag packing out of the way as soon as they get in from school. A child that has masked all day may need some downtime when they get home before they even consider this. Do what is best for you and your child. We watch Friends for an hour when my son gets home from school. This gives him time to reset himself ready for tea, homework and a shower before bed.
Then you have the masking teens that want to be social butterflies. Double this with hormones and it can be a disaster. I was one of these teens. I did not know how to say no and therefore copied everything to fit in. This included smoking and drinking amongst other things. I honestly have no tips here other than being there for your child. Being a teenager is damn hard.
Yep, we still mask as adults! My friend Richie from Awesometistic has a name for his masking, it is “Presentation Rich”. I love that. It makes so much sense.
As an adult, you want to do what other adults do. You want to go to work. Actually you have to go to work, otherwise, how do you get a house and food and the essentials to live?
It would be great if you could go to work and be yourself but even non-autistics will mask to an extent.
For me masking as an adult is like acting. I play a different character for each role in my life. I am fortunate enough that I work from home now so I don’t mask day to day like I used to when I was working in an office for example. It was hard work and it was exhausting. But for other aspects of life, I have little roles that I play and I have them memorised in my head. I am very rarely the real me.
Socialising as an adult can also be difficult as you often feel that you need alcohol to be able to cope with situations.
It’s such a relief when you find people who are like you and you can just relax with a coffee.
I’ve said before masking is exhausting and you can often end up with something called burnout.
Try something called energy accounting. This is where you write down all of the energy you need for the day and make sure you don’t go into a deficit. If you do go into a deficit you need to do something that recharges your energy. If you use more energy than you have you will go into burnout.
Find our Energy Accounting Template by clicking the link below!
Unlike the popular belief, masking isn’t just for girls! Anyone can mask and it can be extremely exhausting. We hope that this blog has helped out in finding out what masking is and how you can help someone who masks!