We are now living in a world where masks are the latest trending (and required) accessory. We understand how much is required of us as adults, trying to remember to bring them with us everywhere, keeping our hands away from our face and cleaning them properly after each use. For kids, and adults alike, the safety of wearing a mask far outweighs the risk of going without, so we urge you and your family to wear masks diligently every time you are out in a public place without the ability to properly social distance.
COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person primarily from respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth. Wearing a mask protects us from coming into contact with those droplets, from those infected, when talking, coughing, sneezing or singing. Wearing a facemask is a small, but simple choice that can save many lives.
Follow these top 10 tips to keep your kids safe while mask-wearing:
- Explain the importance of face masks to your child. Compliance, especially from children, comes when they understand why they are being asked to follow said rule. For younger children your explanation should be basic, but to the point. You can simply tell them that wearing a face mask keeps them safe from a sickness that is going around right now. For older kids, you should explain the health concerns of COVID-19 in simple, but effective terms. Use the CDC guidelines as a starting point for your discussion with teens.
- Find the proper fit. Ensure you are buying the correct size mask for your child. Try a few different brands and styles before you settle on one for long-term use. Make sure it fits securely over the nose and mouth and covers enough area to avoid any droplets. Check the ear loops to avoid pain after long wear.
- Let them choose a design and style they like. Involving kids in their mask choice gets them more excited to wear them. Allow them to pick styles and designs from their favorite character, book or movie. If you make them at home, let them customize them with glitter pens, beads and lettering.
- Model ideal behavior. Kids follow our lead. Wear your mask consistently when you are out in public and show your child the importance of the entire family following this safety precaution. They will be more apt to follow suit if they see you sticking to the rule.
- Practice wearing a mask. With most things, practice makes perfect. Practice mask wearing at home before events that do not include social distancing, such as returning to school. The more practice they get, the more comfortable they will get with wearing them for the long-term.
- Talk to your child about their feelings. It’s normal to feel all sorts of emotions when required to wear a mask. There are bound to be numerous questions from your child. Take the time to sit down with your child and talk through their feelings often.
- Make masks fun for younger kids. Kids are all about the fun stuff. Incorporate mask-wearing into play time. Have their teddy bear wear a mask, have your child mask up to play doctor or wear them together during imaginary play. Normalizing them through all activities will get your child feeling confident and comfortable wearing a mask.
- Reiterate the importance of wearing a mask. Depending on a particular mood, a child could easily forget or disregard past conversations about mask wearing. Discuss the importance of masks with them often, even before every outing if necessary.
- Use positive reinforcement. Praise your child for a job well done when they’ve worn their mask for extended periods of time. Tell them how proud you are, celebrate the small mask-wearing victories and treat them to a fun treat or gift on tough occasions where they’ve successfully wore a mask.
- Find manageable options for who have anxiety about mask wearing. Extended mask wear can cause increased anxiety and physical pain for young children. If your child is complaining of pain behind the ears or on their nose, seek out options such as buttons on hats or a hair band, to hold the mask while not hurting their sensitive ear area. If the mask causes increased anxiety due to fears of not being about to breathe, practice deep breathing techniques with the mask on to get them more comfortable and steady their breath.
Mask wearing can be tiring for little ones, but with the right positive reinforcement, open communication and practice, they can be expert mask wearers in no time. Talk to your child often and demonstrate healthy mask wearing to further echo the goal you would like them to shadow.