Let's Help Kids to Mask It Up
One of the measures that we are encouraged to take is to mask up. Studies have shown that masks greatly reduce the chance of transmitting the Covid-19 virus through spray of spit or respiratory droplets, through sneezing and/or coughing. This can easily occur when a person infected with the virus is in close proximity, within six feet. This has been communicated as the range of transmitting infection.
In popular entertainment, the “masked” person was portrayed as the “bad guy.” Masks have also been used to hide a person’s identity as well as to establish the identity of another. Children, in their nature, rely on facial expressions to read the person in front of them. When the face is concealed, it may appear suspicious and even scary to them.
While the CDC does not recommend masks for children under age 2, conversations need to be had with those past that age, in a bid to protect them and keep them safe. It is therefore important for parents and guardians to talk to children, in age-appropriate language, about the importance of wearing masks during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Help Kids Understand the Importance of Masks
Answer all questions they have about wearing masks and also seeing people around them in masks. They will feel safe when the explanation comes from a parent or a figure of authority that they trust. Show them pictures of other children wearing masks. Give them a chance to touch and feel and get used to the masks around them.
Wearing of masks doesn’t come easy to young children, toddlers especially. They feel like an intrusion on their faces and they can keep tugging at them as they seek some sort of comfort outside the mask; the same mask that is supposed to be protecting them.
Make Masking a Positive Experience
Make a fun DIY activity out of creating masks where they get to choose the fabric they want. They can even make masks for their stuffed animals! Help them draw their favorite cartoons on the masks as a way to make them fun. Encourage them to embrace the new personas of their masked ‘superheroes’ and even get into some role-playing. This will go a long way in normalizing the presence of masks.
How about introducing a reward system where a child gets a healthy treat when they keep their mask on during the entire time they are at a grocery store? This can be a great incentive and will keep tantrums at a minimum.
Staying Safe is More than Just Masks
While wearing masks has been seen as a great way to reduce infection, it is not necessary to have children wear masks while in their homes. This is mainly because other measures like keeping surfaces disinfected and washing of hands with water and soap and use of sanitizers are already being practiced.
Staying home is the best way to keep infections down but every once in a while there's a need to go outdoors for a breath of fresh air. When you take a walk with a child, as long as you are able to keep the six-feet distance from everybody else, the child can enjoy the walk without the mask.
In an ideal world, we would all just stay home and be safe. But it is not an ideal world and life happens. You may find yourself having to go for a doctor’s appointment or making a dash to the grocery store. While outside, it can seem impossible to keep your child from touching surfaces and door handles and elevator buttons and the like. You may also find yourself in a position where you can’t maintain a six-foot distance from other people. These are important times when the child should mask up.
A Few More Masking Tips
To keep children from tugging at their masks all the time, make sure it’s the right fit and they are able to comfortably breathe and talk even when the mask is on. It should fit snugly on the face and comfortable against the sides of the face. Secure the mask with ear loops for easy fastening and removing.
Use of cloth face covering on a child whose airway is small can increase the risk of suffocation. The child should be able to remove the mask on their own, without the risk of choking or strangulation.
Teach the child the recommended tips to follow when removing the mask, not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth and to immediately wash their hands after removing the mask. Rehearse and review the routines with them until they are familiar. Lead by example: be a good role model and wear your mask as children learn by observing.