As schools create safe plans to open up amidst the pandemic and the Delta variant, your child will still be required to wear a mask. Many parents are concerned that their children will refuse to or even take their masks off during the day. How can parents encourage and maintain mask-wearing when they struggle with this at home?
Before you jump in and tell your child “you need to put this mask on before we leave the house,” answer the following questions:
- How much is my child aware of what is going on right now regarding this pandemic and COVID-19?
- How does my child best understand information? What type of learner are they?
- Knowing my child, what will be the barriers, if any, of getting my child to wear and maintain wearing a mask?
- Does my child present any worries or anxieties when asked to try something new?
With some information gathered that prioritizes your child’s individualized needs and personality, you can then work on a number of ways to help your child get there.
Tell them why.
Do not say you need to wear a mask without the why? Keep the conversation developmentally appropriate. For example: there is a virus/bug/germ in the air and it can go from our body to someone’s body when we cough, spit, talk, or sneeze too close to someone else. Answer their questions, “will I get to take it off?”
Children are more likely to follow actions that their parents and those around them engage in. Lead by example.
Start to practice at home and in increments.
Children want to feel successful and receive praise for something new. Start wearing masks at home in increments. For example- start with 5 minutes and pick times of the day to start. First thing in the morning or right after lunch?
Let this be part of your rules.
In order to keep everyone safe, we all have to wear a mask. Younger children, especially company when you frame this as a rule.
Be creative and allow for choices.
Children like to be in control of their decisions. Provide a variety of masks to choose from. Be creative and allow them to design their masks. Think of this mask as part of your child wardrobe. Make a matching mask for your child’s stuffed animal or doll.
Be flexible for kids who have sensory challenges.
Create a safe space with social distance if your child needs to adjust or remove the mask from a short period of time. Look for face masks with mouth openings for help with communication and social skills, which can be especially helpful for children with auditory sensitivities.
Use positive reinforcement.
This will increase the likelihood your child will automatically wear the mask the next day. Pair this request with a reward chart. For each time your child wears a mask, give your child a small token/sticker/stamp on a chart they can see.