The past few months have brought an onslaught of unexpected changes. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed public life, and these changes have likely been noticed by young children. As schools go back into session, these changes may be even more noticeable — particularly with the mandated use of facial masks.
Many schools are mandating that students wear masks during the school day, and parents may be concerned about how their children will react to them. For younger kids, wearing a mask can seem intimidating; they may be scared, throw a tantrum, or argue when they are forced to wear one (Teagle, 2020). By gradually introducing them to changes, however, parents can turn these unexpected changes into a non-harmful experience. As with any major change, providing children with patience and comfort is the first step to helping them feel safe with unfamiliar protocol. With that being said, here are some tips to help kids adjust to wearing masks:
Explain why you’re wearing masks. Talk about the virus in terms they can understand. You do not need to scare them in order to have them listen — framing mask-wearing as a positive behavior can be just as effective. For example, kids may be more cooperative after they know that masks can help protect older people from the virus. Please note that children under the age of 2 should not wear a mask ("COVID-19: Considerations for Wearing Masks", 2020).
Let them decorate or pick out the material for their mask: decorating a cloth mask — or letting them pick out the material — can give kids a greater sense of control over the situation. (Note that many types of surgical masks should not be decorated due to sanitation concerns).
Practice wearing the mask at home. Start with short time intervals and gradually work your way up. Click here for some fun activities you can do while wearing a mask.
Model the behavior you wish to see: let your child see you wearing your own mask, and talk about it in a positive manner. If your child sees that you hate wearing a mask, they will likely mimic this behavior.
Put masks on their toys at home: this can make masks seem less intimidating.
Try this fun mask activity.
Wearing a mask is just one of many unexpected changes people have experienced during the last year. As states continue to reopen, schools may function differently, or be completely online. Talking to your child about these changes and finding ways to make it seem fun can help them transition during a stressful time.
COVID-19: Considerations for Wearing Masks. (2020, July 16). Retrieved August 2, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/ cloth-face-cover-guidance.html
Teagle, J. L. (Ed.). (2020, July). Coronavirus (COVID-19): Helping Kids Get Used to Masks (for Parents) - Nemours KidsHealth. Retrieved August 2, 2020, from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/coronavirus-masks.html