Kids wear a lot of things to stay safe when they’re out in public. We wouldn’t dream of letting our kids leave the house without shoes to protect their feet, sunscreen to protect their skin in the summer or a jacket to protect against the fall chill. This year, there’s something new on the list of kid gear for children age 2 and up: face masks.
Infectious disease experts who have studied the spread of COVID-19 tell us that wearing a face mask when out of the house is critical to reducing the spread of the virus and helping to end the pandemic sooner. An August 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center found that most Americans are following the advice, with 85% of those surveyed saying that in the past month they’ve worn a mask or face covering when in stores or other businesses all or most of the time.
Getting comfortable with a mask may be easier for some children than others – children with sensory and behavioral issues may need extra help – but with practice and your encouragement, your child can have an easier time when they must mask.
Wondering how you can help your child get used to wearing a mask? Try these six tips.
1. Explain WHY kids and adults are wearing a mask.
- Keep it simple: “I wear a mask to keep you safe. You wear a mask to keep me safe.”
- Talk about teamwork and that families can do this together.
- Be calm and listen to any concerns your child may have.
2. NORMALIZE wearing a mask by helping your child see that other people are wearing masks too.
- Remind your child we wear many things to keep ourselves safe. Ask your child to name something he or she wears to stay safe, such as shoes or a hat.
- Play a game when you’re out: do you see a person with a green shirt wearing a mask? Do you see a person with blue sneakers wearing a mask?
- Have a video call with grandparents or a friend so your child can see someone familiar wearing a mask.
3. Be A GOOD ROLE MODEL by wearing a mask whenever you leave the house.
- When you wear a mask, you are teaching your child what to do.
- Emphasize that you’re following guidelines to keep others safe.
- Wear your mask at home to help your child adjust and better understand.
4. Let your child PRACTICE wearing a mask at home before wearing one in public.
- Your younger child may think it’s fun to try the mask on a stuffed animal first.
- Start by having your child hold a mask to their face, and then wear the mask for short periods to adjust to it.
- Let your child do a fun activity at home (play a game, watch a show) while wearing a mask.
5. ADAPT to your child’s preferences. Try different designs or a fabric with images your child loves.
- Try different materials to see which your child likes the best.
- Try a fabric with images your child loves – dogs, superheroes, a favorite cartoon character, etc.
- If the smell bothers them, try using a scented lip balm before placing the mask.
6. Help them understand.
If your child is returning to school and in person instruction, help your child UNDERSTAND what will be expected at school by reading this special story with them on wearing a mask at school.
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