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Here's how to help your kids to wear facemasks

September 03, 2020
kids and masks 250x

It is normal to be concerned about how your child will adjust to wearing a mask as we start to reenter more public spaces. The good news is that you can set the tone for how your child adjusts to wearing a mask!

Wearing your own mask correctly and consistently is the best way to reinforce the habit for your whole family. Your own positive attitude and mask wearing habits will influence how your child uses a mask themselves.

Explain why wearing a mask is important.

Explain to your children what COVID-19 is in simple, honest, age-appropriate terms.

If they do not hear the information from you, they will find it in other ways. Identifying incorrect information is difficult, even for adults. Keeping the conversation open allows you to make sure your child or teen is getting reliable information regarding COVID-19, mask wearing and other public health recommendations that keep everyone safe.

Talk about how to stay safe and how wearing a mask can help protect us as well as others from COVID-19.

Start with short, fun outings.

Put masks on together for short outings to help your child or teen. Start preparing as soon as possible to help your child or teen be more comfortable in their masks before they are required to wear a mask for a longer period of time.

Choose activities that your child will enjoy to help them adjust to their masks. Your child may respond best to activities outside the ones suggested for their age group.

Create choices whenever possible. Wearing a mask is not optional in many situations, but that does not mean they can’t make some decisions. For example, instead of asking your child, “Do you want to put your mask on?” parents should say, “It’s time to put your mask on, which mask would you like to wear today?”

Validate emotions and normalize them by saying things like, “It is frustrating that we have to wear masks, but I am glad you are protecting everyone’s health and safety.”

Be a good example.

Practice good mask wearing habits yourself. Wear it correctly over the nose and mouth, limit touching the mask while wearing it and practice good hand washing after mask removal. Reinforce the need to wear a mask outside of your home.

When in the presence of your child or teen:

  • Speak positively about their efforts and encourage them to keep trying, even if just for smaller amounts of time.
  • Avoid speaking negatively about mask wearing policies in front of your child or teen but do acknowledge their feelings and emotions around needing to wear masks.
  • Process your own emotions with your own support people and away from your children. This situation is difficult for everyone. You also need a place to express your own feelings.

Find a mask that works for your child:

Try multiple styles to find the one that fits best and feels comfortable. The mask should always cover your child’s nose and mouth.

Consider your child’s sensory needs. If they don’t like the feeling of the ear loops, you may be able to make or find hats with buttons or other styles of securing the masks. There are also various fabric options to choose from to meet your child’s needs.

Tips for Different Developmental Levels

Infants and toddlers: 0-2 years

It is not safe for children under 2 years old to wear a mask, but they can still benefit from age appropriate mask play to help them adjust.

  • Play peek-a-boo games or sing songs with your children while wearing a mask. This will help your child become accustomed to people who are wearing masks.
  • Practice modeling and placing a mask on stuffed animals daily.

Young children learn with repetition. This can especially help with older toddlers as they approach the age of mask wearing mandates.

Preschool-aged children: 3-6 years

  • Practice modeling and placing a mask on stuffed animals daily.
  • Practice wearing masks with your child for short times and increase the time as your child adjusts.
  • Give them choices. Let them decorate a mask or pick one they like best.
  • Help your child know what to expect by using clear statements such as First/Then statements (“First we put on our masks, then we can go into the store”)

Provide activities with mask wearing:

  • Coloring activities
  • Make paper masks to place on pictures of people they know or a character in their favorite picture book.
  • Talk about what they look like with and without the masks.
  • Put on masks and play in the mirror together.

School-aged children: 7-12 years

  • Practice wearing masks for short times and increase the time as your child adjusts.
  • Talk about when you need masks and when you don’t. Practice recognizing what 6 feet away looks like.
  • Make your child the official family mask helper. Giving them a job teaches the rules of mask wearing and makes them the expert.

Provide activities with mask wearing:

  • Mask selfies!
  • Coloring activities
  • Let your child pick, make or decorate their own mask.

Teens: 13-18 years

Discuss how to identify reliable sources for information and address that there are many sources of misleading information out there. Encourage your teen to speak with you about their questions and worries.

  • Help your teen find masks that fit their personal style. There are many ways to express themselves through their masks.
  • Talk about how responsible mask-wearing, as well as following other safety recommendations, will help limit further closings and disruptions.
  • Brainstorm activities or ways to have contact with their friends that are safe.
  • Encourage your teen to use their existing coping skills to deal with these changes. Suggest creative outlets such as art or music, physical activity, or other outlets that help them express feelings and support their coping.
  • Talk with your teen about what to do if others are not following safety recommendations and brainstorm what they can do in those situations.

Mistakes will likely happen! Keep the lines of communication open about any potential exposures and limit consequences for honesty about any mask wearing or social distancing slip-ups.

Remember that rebellious behavior is normal for many teens. Encourage ongoing communication to help teens understand the need for extra safety measures at this time.

More Resources

If your child continues to struggle with wearing a mask, talk to your child’s primary care provider for additional guidance and options to keep your child and family safe.

You can also print out Baystate Health flyers about children and wearing a face mask.