Wearing a mask is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19 but getting a child to wear a face mask may be tricky. They may be afraid, feel self-conscious, or feel a mask is too uncomfortable. Here are some ways to help your child adjust to wearing a mask.
What kind of masks do children need?
You’d never send your first-grader to school wearing your high-schooler’s pants and the same is true for your child’s face-covering. For a mask to be effective, fit is key. Look for face coverings that are specifically sized for children. Your child’s mask should cover her nose, mouth, and chin and fit snugly but not tight. Ear loops can be easier than ties for young children. Kids are unlikely to keep their mask on if it’s uncomfortable. If it’s too big (or too small), they’re more likely to touch their mask to make adjustments and reposition it, which could also increase their risk of infection.
How can I help my child wear a mask?
Help your child feel more comfortable with wearing a mask by:
- Using simple words to explain why people are wearing masks. For example, try saying, “We need to wear a mask to help keep people from getting sick.”
- Making mask-wearing fun. Let your child participate in choosing, making, or decorating his or her mask.
- Letting your child see you wear your own mask.
- Maintaining a positive attitude around mask-wearing.
- Answering your child’s questions in age-appropriate terms.
Here are a few ideas from the American Academy of Pediatrics that may also help.
- Practice wearing a mask at home for longer periods every day until school starts to help with the adjustment. Wearing a mask all day is much different than a quick trip to the store.
- Look in the mirror with the mask on and talk about it.
- Find pictures of other kids in masks.
- Put a mask on a loved stuffed animal or draw one on a favorite book character.
- Let your kids decorate masks to be personalized and fun. If homemade, let kids choose the fabrics.
- Be sure to send an extra mask in their backpack.
- Label masks with names.
- Clip a lanyard to their mask so it doesn’t get lost.
- Soft, pleated face coverings with elastic are likely to work best for kids.
- Find the right size for your child's face and show them how to adjust it for a secure fit.
RELATED: How to wear, clean, and store your face mask.
What if my child has special needs
If you have a child with special needs, talk to your child’s school and your pediatrician about your child’s situation and your concerns. For deaf and hard of hearing children who lip read, a custom mask worn by the teacher or aides may help.
Going back to school raises a lot of concerns and district plans will most likely evolve as time passes. In the meantime, teach your kids to wear a mask, wash their hands correctly, avoid touching their cute face, and choose elbow bumps instead of hugs when they see their friends.