As children are experiencing many changes with the COVID-19 pandemic, from school uncertainty to not getting to see their friends, the Loma Linda University Children’s Health team in Loma Linda, California, United States, wants to help parents facing the challenge of masking their children.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household. Regarding children, the CDC recommends kids over the age of 2 wear cloth masks.
The Children’s Hospital Child Life Services team of child life specialists are experts in minimizing the fear and stress experienced by children, adolescents, and families during hospitalization. Specialist Jamie Jones offers parents some easy tips to help their children adapt to wearing a mask.
1. Focus on normalizing the mask.
Jones explains that kids often learn best by example. She encourages parents to introduce and normalize the mask by letting them see parents consistently wearing their masks.
2. Make it fun.
Present the mask in a playful way at home by placing it on their stuffed animals or dolls. Decorate a mask with stickers, or let the child choose a mask they like with a favorite superhero or character design.
3. Explain why.
Some children may want to know why they have to wear a mask at all. Try to explain the necessity of a mask in easy-to-understand and positive language. She suggests a simple explanation of a mask stopping the spread of germs. Be open to answering their questions.
4. Validate feelings.
If your child expresses frustration while wearing the mask, validate and acknowledge their feelings, but remind them of the need to wear a mask during this pandemic.
5. Practice makes perfect.
Just as parents may have to remind their kids to wash their hands, gently remind them about the need to wear a mask, and practice wearing/adjusting it correctly before leaving the house.
Although it may take time for a child to adjust to wearing a mask, Jones encourages parents to stay patient while practicing mask-wearing with their children. Positive encouragement will go a long way, Jones says.