By now, you must have read a million articles and news convincing you how wearing a face mask during this pandemic can be a life-saving practice. The stress due to COVID-19 is taking its toll on everyone, especially on children. Recently, in Australia, when schools reopened they noticed an increase in anxiety, misbehavior, and conflict with friends as kids struggled to make sense of the masks, stress, and disruption around them. While many kids have coped with the new normal, many still remain resilient. And as parents, we understand the challenges in getting your kid to wear a mask, especially if your tiny tot is a naughty one! You must be thinking, “Masks? I can’t even get my kid to wear shoes!”?
We’d like to present you with a couple of possible solutions, that can help you get to love your kids to wear a mask. And before you begin to read, remember - Your kid is little and is still learning.
The first and foremost question arises, should children wear a mask?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children of age 2 years and older should wear a mask over their nose and mouth when in public settings.
It must be noted that children below the age of 2 years should not wear masks, as they may suffocate.
As in-person learning may resume in some time, how can a mask help a kid
As schools begin to resume in some time, there will be many unfamiliar experiences: new routines, schedules, and guidelines. Especially for young kids, it’s going to be challenging at best to adjust to wearing face masks for extended periods.
Parents can help by getting their kids used to wearing masks for increased intervals of time even before school begins. And we have some suggestions for how we might introduce masks to kids while creating safe and predictable environments to allay the expected fear and anxiety these changes could create.
The best thing you can do is, be honest with them but don't scare them. Rather empower them to help keep us all safe. Additionally, tell them that it is a rule for everyone now.
Read CDC’s guidelines for the opening of the schools and childcare in the near time.
Here are some ideas to try if your kids are struggling to wear a mask:
Explain: Use age-appropriate and non-threatening language to tell your child why they need to wear a mask. For example, tell them that when we sneeze, cough, or even breathe too close to someone our germs can travel from our body to someone else and make them sick. Wearing a mask helps keep those germs from spreading. Similarly, other people wear masks to save us from their germs.
Make It Fun: Kids are more likely to wear something they find appealing and fun. So, allow your kids to choose from a range of colorful and kid-friendly masks. Because if they pick it out themselves, they will have a sense of ownership and independence. To make it more fun, put a mask on their favorite stuffed animals or dolls. You can also draw a mask on their favorite book character. Also, point out that superheroes wear masks to fight evil.
Engage: Engage them in DIY projects like making your own masks. Kids are most likely to wear one when they are involved in the creation. There are many videos online showing how to make a simple mask.
Decorate: Let them play with their creativity. Give them a simple plain mask that they can decorate with fabric markers. They can even decorate masks for the whole family to wear. This will build a sense of team spirit.
Empathize: Truth be told, no one actually likes wearing a mask. But while dealing with the inevitable times, wearing a mask right now is just the first and most important step. Show your kids the pictures of other children or superheroes wearing masks. Make them learn that we are all in this together by wearing face masks. Children seem to imitate their elders, so if you are wearing a mask, there is a great chance that you have already convinced your kid to wear a mask too.
Rules: As we said above, tell them that wearing masks is a rule right now. Explain to them that we often have rules in place to keep each other safe. Take an example of a simple rule: look both ways before you cross the street.
Togetherness: We really are all in this together. If your family or kids find this challenging, you can assure them that they are not alone. When your kids see other people and kids on the street or public places wearing masks, then they will be more likely to go along.
Change It Up: Life has a simple rule, what works for you today, may not work tomorrow. Take advantage of this and be creative. Try different things daily. And by all means, reward your kids with lots of hugs and togetherness. Wearing a mask can make anyone feel disconnected. So, it's important to reward them with quiet time together coloring or reading. You can offer snacks, their favorite toy, or screen time whenever they try to wear a mask on their own.
Don’t Stress: Everyone is at least a little overwhelmed right now, which can surely affect parenting in sundry ways. Just make sure to take a little time for yourself too to de-stress every day. Because kids are more likely to listen when parents are patient and calm.
Note: If you are preparing your kids to go to school, do these two things: label your child’s masks with his/her name and send in an extra mask in case your child loses the mask or gets it dirty.
Normalizing mask-wearing in a low-risk situation is the best way to avoid unintentional exposure out in the world. Choose from these tips and educate kids about COVID-19 and how a face mask can be their hero in fighting the bad enemy.
If your child has special needs, we encourage you to talk to your child therapist and healthcare providers before exploring these options. To know what doctors are saying and recommending on this, watch this video.
Don’t miss out on praising your child for helping to keep our communities safe. Let them know that together we can make a difference and limit the spread of COVID-19. Stay safe!