It’s hard enough convincing some adults to wear face masks, but it’s an entirely different struggle when it comes to children.
The guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics state that face masks should “securely cover the nose and mouth and stretch from before the ear to the other side.” All children above the age of 2 that cannot practice proper social distancing are required to wear a face covering. Children 2 and younger should not wear masks due to suffocation and choking hazards
There are plenty of reasons why children might not want to wear a mask. For some, it’s uncomfortable, while others don’t fully understand the seriousness of the pandemic.
Here are a few ways to have you child warm up to the idea of wearing a face mask:
Explain It To Them
Dr. Julia Sammons, the director of the department of infection prevention and control at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told FastCompany that it helps to walk children through this new experience.
She suggests using similar strategies that nurses and doctors do when preparing children for scary and difficult procedures. These strategies include talking to children, familizaring them with what’s happening, and using play to help them feel comfortable.
Set an Example
Being a mask model is important so kids can see it being normalized. Sammons suggests wearing the mask around your child frequently even around the house where it's low-risk. “This is a new, unprecedented experience for all of us,” says Sammons. “It will make your child more comfortable to see other people wearing masks. You might even show them pictures of other children wearing masks as well.”
Explaining to your child that wearing a mask promotes health and prevents the spread of the virus by curbing the spread of germs could be helpful.
Make It Fun
Another incentive is to allow them to have fun with it. A fun game is to allow them to pretend they’re superheroes anytime they wear the mask. This encourages them to wear a mask and associate it with fun.
"Give kids a matching mask for a favorite doll or stuffed animal to wear," Atlanta-based pediatrician, Jennifer Shu, M.D. told Parents.com.
You can even have children decorate their masks so it's a reflection of their personality and more personalized. Shu says it will allow children to feel some "control" over the situation.
When to Wear a Mask
Mask guidelines for children are very similar to mask guidelines for adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that children do not need to wear face masks if they can maintain a distance of six feet from other people and practice proper social distancing.
Masks are mandatory in public places such as stores.
Kids should also have them tucked in their backpack in case the park or play area becomes crowded and distancing isn’t possible.
How To Properly Wear the Mask
Wearing the mask properly is just as important as wearing the mask.
According to the AAP, you need to wash your hands before you put a mask on and after you take it off.
Masks should be washed after each use. They should never be worn while eating or drinking.
And it’s pertinent to refrain from touching your mask while you wear it. If it makes them touch their face more, it may make exposure more likely and thus, masks shouldn’t be worn, per the AAP.
The fit of the mask is also very important as it should cover the mouth and nose. The publication notes that children under the age of 4 need a mask that is 4 inches by 6 inches, with straps that are 5 inches long.
Children between the ages of 4 and 12 need a mask that is 5 inches by 7 inches, with straps that are about 6 inches long, per the publication.
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