Parents who have tried to get their young kids to wear a face mask know that it’s far from easy. Regardless of how difficult the process is, face masks are here to stay, especially as young ones face the possibility of in-person classes returning.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all kids over the age of two wear face coverings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. While you might not be planning to have your kids out and about just yet, now’s the time to help your kids adjust to their new normal.
Explain Why Face Masks Are Needed
Chances are, your child is not likely to understand the sudden need for a face covering. Depending on how young your kids are, you may have to break down face masks into easy-to-understand concepts.
CNN describes a Sesame Street description of the pandemic for preschool-aged children. Describe coronavirus as the bad guy. Humans — the good guys — have to do what they can to protect their lungs, bodies, and each other from it. Face masks are the key to protection in the fight against the “bad guys.”
If your kids are older, educate them about the coronavirus — what the pandemic looks like, how it’s spread, and how we can best equip ourselves to stop it from spreading. Liza Saurez, director of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Pediatric Stress and Anxiety Disorders Clinic, tells CNN that parents should also emphasize kindness.
“It’s helpful to say things like, ‘Face coverings reduce the chances we infect others,’ and, ‘If we all wear masks, we protect each other,'” said Suarez. “You can’t really go wrong if you teach your child that we’re all part of this world, and we need to help each other out.”
Practice Makes Perfect, Even for Masks
Saurez recommends parents start out with having kids wear masks around the house for short periods of time.
Experts recommend parents to incorporate play into mask-wearing if children are hesitant to wear one. Have kids practice proper mask-wearing by placing them on their favorite dolls or stuffed animals. Not only can it help them look less intimidating, but it helps kids practice how to wear a mask properly.
Watching video demonstrations of how masks work in relation to coronavirus can also help visual learners. Bill Nye the Science Guy took to TikTok to give his own demonstration on face masks, and Jack Black made a funny video about how wearing a mask makes you a superhero.
More importantly, parents can’t expect kids to understand face coverings and wearing them properly within one day. Just like any other learned experience, like potty-training, kids will take time to adjust.
“It’s like anything with parenting, really; this isn’t going to happen overnight,” she said. “Instead, parents need to accept that they’re laying a foundation that requires gradual increments of time. Little by little, parents get the message across.”