Most adults understand that facial coverings are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. The mask has become an extension of your being when you leave the house. You have to double-check yourself for a mask, as though you are patting your pockets to ensure you remembered your keys, wallet, and phone. And while it may be frustrating, the act of wearing a mask helps to keep you and other people safe.
It’s hard to get children to do a lot of things. Putting on clothes, brushing teeth, washing hands, saying “please” or “thank you,” or eating meals are all uphill battles. Now, we have to get children and teens alike to understand the importance of wearing masks. Challenges may present themselves depending on the child’s age, but expect there to be a long learning curve.
A Quick Note: If your child is under the age of two, do not make him or her wear a facial covering. The risk of suffocation is very high.
When Do Children Need To Wear Masks?
If you plan to have your child return to childcare or school, face coverings/masks are necessary. Most schools will require kids to have them in order to keep all them safe. Additionally, masks in schools or childcare facilities helps reduce the spread of the virus between children, or between children and the present adults. Children also need to wear masks anytime they cannot maintain a safe distance from others. If you take them to the grocery store, park, or doctor’s office, they also need to wear masks for protection.
It Will Take Time And Practice
Just like breaking in a new pair of shoes, it takes time to get comfortable when wearing a mask. As adults, we are now comfortable with them, but it may take more time with children. Explaining the reason for wearing masks will be easier or harder, depending on the age of the child. Since there are many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, wearing masks helps reduce your risk of contracting the virus. Now, every child won’t understand what the virus is or how it spreads, but the best thing to do is to practice wearing masks with them. Start by wearing masks with your child(ren) for increasing intervals with each passing day. Eventually, your child(ren) will be able to wear a mask without any issues.
Explain The Importance Of Masks
It’s important to speak in terms that your child will understand. The words “pandemic” and “respiratory disease” may not mean anything to your child. Try to focus on germs, and explain how some germs are good and some are bad. The bad ones can make people very sick, and masks are necessary since you can’t tell the difference between good and bad germs. If the germ explanation does work, try to use the superhero analogy. Superheroes have to wear masks and special suits to keep them safe from bad guys, and masks are like superhero shields that keep bad, invisible germs away.
Have Your Kids Decorate Their Masks
A personal touch always helps a child feel better or more confident. Let them take a little ownership of the masks and it may help them get more comfortable wearing them. Depending on the material, you can let your kids paint the masks, draw on them with markers, or place stickers on them.
Model Good Mask-Wearing Behavior
Kids often learn by example, and they are more likely to get excited about something if they see others doing the same thing. You can explain that you also wear a mask to keep yourself and your friends safe from germs. Kids, especially kids between the ages of four and eight, have a better understanding of caring for others. They want to do the right thing, and if they see your good mask-wearing habits, they’ll follow suit.
It will take time for children to become accustomed to facial coverings, and they may get upset or react negatively towards them at first. Accept this reaction and let them express themselves. They’ll eventually warm up to the new way of life.