6 tips to help kids wear face masks as COVID spikes in St Lucia
Masks have become a necessary way of life throughout the world.
To curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, adults and children two years and over are required to wear face coverings in public spaces.
Masks are unfamiliar and may be scary to some children. As a result, for many parents, getting a child to wear a face mask and leave it on may feel like a challenge.
Children are active and tend to be fidgety and wearing a mask can be an uncomfortable adjustment for them. However, it only takes practice to get your child into the habit of wearing a mask in public.
Educate your child
Start by educating your child about COVID-19 and why face masks are important. Use age-appropriate language to bring across the message so they understand how serious it is. You can say something like “This virus is making a lot of people sick, so doctors are saying it’s best to wear a mask when we’re around other people. The mask helps keep your body safe.” You can also provide them with a timer to help them understand how long they have to wear the mask – for example until you get home or in the car so kids can anticipate when to take the mask off.
Normalize face masks through playtime
Give your child a mask for their favorite doll or teddy bear and encourage them to draw masks on characters in coloring books. Also, have them practice putting the mask on their doll or teddy bear and have them practice wearing the mask with the toy to normalize the situation. While they play, listen to what your child is saying to have an idea of how well they understand what the mask is for.
Make mask wearing fun for your child
Younger children may be particularly hesitant to wear a mask because it is foreign to them and covers their face. Select a fabric that is soft and breathable. Avoid scratchy materials or those that trap heat. Purchase masks that feature your child’s favorite color, animal or cartoon character. You can also provide options and let them choose which mask they prefer as this may help them feel more invested and willing to wear the selected mask.
Practice wearing a mask
Introducing something new to your child involves practicing to help them become familiar with the change. Have them practice putting on the mask and wearing it for short periods around the house.
Give your child an incentive
Celebrate mastering each step with a motivator, like cheers, high-fives, thumbs-up or playing a favorite song. Preferably, the motivator can be something that is specific to celebrating milestones related to the mask, not a reward that occurs on a regular basis.
Model healthy behavior – Wear your own mask
One of the best ways to get your child to wear their mask is by wearing yours. Children normally will watch how you talk about and react to wearing a face mask and will follow your lead. While wearing a mask can be an adjustment, try to use positive language and reinforce why wearing a face mask is helpful for your family and for others in the community. Focusing on the things you can control and thinking positively can go a long way in reducing anxiety about COVID-19.