Wearing a face mask is challenging for adults who can understand the reasons why we wear them. But children can have a more difficult time adjusting to face coverings so be prepared to practice the 3 P's: prep, plan, and patience to encourage your kids to follow safe guidelines.
According to The Washington Post, all kids over the age of 2 should wear face coverings when they are indoors or cannot be 6 feet away from others. Children under the age of 2 or those with neurological issues should not wear masks since they might not be able to remove them.
Health experts say cloth masks are fine, but the most important feature is the fit. If the mask is not comfortable, kids will make constant adjustments and, in doing so, touch their faces unnecessarily.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pleated masks with at least three layers of fabric for the best fit and protection of little ones, says the Post. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, a clinical psychologist said if kids balk at wearing their masks, parents should calmly and clearly explain why we need to wear them while validating their feelings that, yes, it does feel strange and weird to have to wear a mask.
Hershberg adds, if defiance persists, parents should find out the cause.
"Are they anxious or afraid? Do they not like how they look? Is it uncomfortable or are they afraid they won't look cool? Whatever it is, explore that and then problem-solve, focusing not only on what they can't control, but what they can."
According to experts, here are some others strategies to encourage kids to stay protected by wearing masks:
- Think super heroes. Point out Spider Man is a true super hero because he covers his nose and mouth with a mask to protect himself and others.
- Find out what is important to your child. Jennifer Sciolla told CNN, "it's not a one size fits all." The senior director of child and family services at Nemours Alfred I. duPont hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, said each child is different, so parents need to find a way to make wearing masks meaningfully to them according their age and understanding of the outside world.
- Explain in simple words why people are wearing masks. According to KidsHealth, it is important to give kids time to look, watch, and get used to seeing what is new. Let them know that by wearing masks, we are all protecting each other, said Liza Suarez, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "You really can't go wrong if you teach your child that we're all part of this world, and we need to help each other out," she said, according to CNN.
- Make it fun. Encourage children to wear their masks so they become used to the procedure every time they leave their home. Suarez told CNN that parents should start by having kids wear their masks for short periods of time in the home. According to KidsHealth, you can let your children play doctor, putting on the mask to help treat a "wounded" stuffed animal or doll.
- Teach your kids the proper way to take face masks on and off by touching the ear loops, not the front of the mask. Encourage them to remove their masks to eat, drink and take a nap. Also, with many schools reopening, make sure each child's name is on the mask and have a backup in case it gets wet or soiled, according to the Post.
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