How to Get Your Child to Wear a Mask
I won’t lie; when I first realized that my daughter would have to wear a mask all day in her 3K program, I really wasn’t sure how we’d swing that. Some days Lizzy will hardly keep her shoes on during short car rides, so how on earth were we going to get her to wear a mask on her face all day? The good news is, this is a success story, and she surprisingly has adjusted to the change very well. Since I’m going through the process myself and I talk about this with families several times a day, here are some suggestions that may be helpful for your own children.
Customize Your Kid’s Mask (And Let Them Help)
Consider getting a mask that your child will like and actually want to wear. Like many 3-year-old girls, Lizzy is motivated by Disney princesses. So her first mask had Belle on it. Her second mask was her favorite color. We put her name on them so it would be easier for her to be identified by her teachers at the beginning (some may prefer not to go this route), and we let her pick out a few masks on her own. Although Disney princesses may not be every child’s first choice, the idea remains: make the mask-wearing task more enjoyable by giving them a look they may like and feel more comfortable wearing.
Do Trial Runs At Home
Try on the mask(s) at home to get them used to wearing them. Help them put the mask on and take it off; then encourage them to try to do so themselves. Like most matters with children, provide as much positive reinforcement as you can when they put the mask on in public/for school. Remind them that their friends are all sharing this responsibility by wearing their masks, too.
Talk about Why Masks Are Important
Talk to your child and explain why we’re wearing them. We tell Lizzy that we’re all wearing masks because there are germs that we need to avoid. That’s also why we wash our hands frequently. And if she’s still paying attention, we throw in a "and that’s why you don’t take your brother’s toys..." but that doesn’t always work out as planned.
Make It As Comfortable As Possible
Try different types of masks. Some kids prefer cotton, gator masks, bandana shape, etc. Some feel better wearing a headband to connect them to or elastic straps with beads to make them more adjustable. While we know that some types of masks are more protective than others, we also know that wearing a mask is a protective measure regardless of the fabric.
Wear Masks For Other Errands
If your children are younger, you may consider wearing your mask on the way to school (or on the way to the grocery store, etc.) so your child knows it’s the current "norm" and will remind them that it’s really a group effort. I’m sure the people who see me driving my daughter to school in the morning think I’m crazy because I have my mask in place, but by golly, it gets her to keep her mask on in the car (unlike her shoes, as noted above) so we don’t struggle at drop-off.
Communicate With the School About Mask Use
If your child is still having issues, talk to his/her teacher to get a schedule of when they may have "mask breaks" during the day or what modifications may be in place to make it an easier transition. Talk to your pediatrician. Our roles haven’t changed during this global pandemic; we’re here to help you find ways to encourage your children’s growth and safety.
Things Will Change
At the end of the day, remind your child that this is not a permanent change. There will be a day where we will again have to do a "teeth check" because we won’t have to wear a mask. Masks won’t always be the most discussed accessory of the year; I’m sure we’ll go back to animal print and angled glasses soon. And when that happens, you can plan to frame your masks, throw them in the trash, or use them in a bonfire...just make sure if you choose the latter you have a fire extinguisher nearby and ready. Because #safetyfirst.
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About the Author
Dr. Melanie Smith is a board-certified pediatrician who provides pediatric care for the Pediatrics East Arlington location. Dr. Melanie M. Smith is a native Memphian who received her medical degree from Lincoln Memorial University – DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Tennessee. She then completed her pediatric residency through the University of Tennessee in Memphis at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.