Helping kids get used to face masks

Getting your child to wear a face mask may be a real challenge. Some children will take to it very easily but for some, it may be really scary. Combine this with being locked up at home for a prolonged period and not seeing friends or family may add to the fear and uncertainty.

We have put together some tips that may make the prospect a bit more appealing.

Helping kids get used to face masks

So the first step in getting a face mask for a child is fairly easy. Now getting them to wear it, and wear it correctly and safely may be a real challenge.

Please remember that it is not advised to use face masks on children under the age of two. This is primarily because their respiratory system is not fully developed and may cause breathing problems. Obviously, you know your child and even some older children with underlying conditions or developmental delays may still not be suited to wearing a face mask. Please consult your doctor, or paediatrician, for advice.

The most important bit of advice we can give is to give as many facts around the coronavirus pandemic, and general health and hygiene, as possible, within an age-appropriate manner. Children have an enormous capacity for the truth, as long as it’s explained in the appropriate way.

At the end of this article, we will provide some links to resources that could help you to explain this to your children.

There’s a number of ways that you can make your child feel more comfortable about wearing a face mask, including:

Be Honest (But Not Scary)

Regardless of your child’s age, be honest about why masks are important. You don’t have to go into a lot of detail, and you should keep it age-appropriate, but be open with your kids about the coronavirus.

Explain to them that wearing a mask helps keep the people around them safe. Resist the urge to dramatize the situation or to share more information than is needed. Instead, use the concept of wearing a mask as an opportunity to teach altruism and empathy.

Make it the norm

Where possible, leave face masks around the house so they become an item they see regularly. Encourage them to practise taking them on and off, and even wear them around the house to get them used to it.

Wear your mask around the house, put it on before leaving the house if you’re going out for a bit. Let them see that you are doing it, kids love to do what mommy or daddy does. If you go for a walk, wear your mask properly, none of this hanging around the neck stuff. If you can’t do it properly how do you expect them to?

Making their own and encourage creativity

Let your little ones choose a design or pattern they like, or help them create their own face mask.

If you’ve bought a face mask for your child, encourage them to get creative and make it their own. Let them draw or sketch some designs or drawings they want to show off to the world.

Make a Mask for a Buddy

Some children may more likely wear a mask if their favourite teddy or Barbie has one too. Make a mask for it and let your child take their ‘friend’ out with them when you go out as long as the ‘friend’ is wearing one too.

Do a Trial Run

Wearing a mask is a new experience for most children. They more than likely will complain the first few times they wear it (just like you did!).

Try the mask at home first for a few minutes at a time, build up to 30 minutes. Then talk to your child and understand how it feels for them to wear it. If you need to, make adjustments to the mask to ensure it fits them comfortably and properly.

Play a game

Face masks can be a bit scary-looking if you’re small (and big, for that matter), so maybe implementing a face mask in play at home will make it seem a bit less daunting. Promote your child to doctor or nurse of the house, and let them look after you (or maybe their favourite stuffed animal might be better?).

Some useful links for talking to children about coronavirus

6 Ways to Help Your Kids Cope With the Coronavirus Crisis

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/warning-signs-parents/202003/6-ways-help-your-kids-cope-the-coronavirus-crisis

COVID-19 Resources for Parents to Share With Children

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/bedtime-stories/202004/covid-19-resources-parents-share-children

Talking to Children About Coronavirus

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/creative-development/202003/talking-children-about-coronavirus

Talking With Your Children About Coronavirus

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/hope-resilience/202005/talking-your-children-about-coronavirus

Let Your Children Play “Coronavirus” to Process the Pandemic

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/the-mind-stage/202003/let-your-children-play-coronavirus-process-the-pandemic

Coping with Coronavirus for Families of Children with Autism

https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/adapt-and-grow/202004/coping-coronavirus-families-children-autism

Tips for Families: Coronavirus

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/3210-tips-for-families-coronavirus

Washing your hand’s video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=mxck67CTQ18&feature=emb_logo