How do I get my child to wear a face mask?

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Face coverings have been part of our daily lives for almost two years in an effort to protect us and those around us and to slow the spread of COVID-19. Despite this, getting kids to wear their masks can still be a battle, something that can be frustrating for everyone involved.

For moms and dads who still hear, “This mask is too tight” and “Why do I have to wear this?” daily, Yahoo Life spoke to parents and healthcare professionals who understand the struggle is real.

Whether it’s convincing kids to put tight-fitting blankets over their noses and mouths or reminding the whole family why masks are important for keeping others safe, here’s what the experts are saying on how to respond to children’s mask-wearing problems while forcing them to cover up.

Wearing a face covering can be difficult for children, but parents and experts say there are ways to make masking a little more manageable. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Explain why wearing a mask is important

According to Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and founder of Happiest Baby, the reason we wear masks is twofold.

“It is important for children to wear masks to stay healthy, as well as those of their families,” Karp told Yahoo Life. “Small children don’t get as sick as older kids or adults, so that’s a good thing, but they can take it home and make everyone else in the family sick.”

Masking also helps children see that we are all in the same boat.

“Wearing a face covering signals to your community that you recognize that this is not a personal health issue, but a public health issue,” Karp said. “It shows we’re doing our part – and we’re helping others do the right thing by showing them.”

While your child’s age and developmental level may determine how you explain these concepts, Karp says understanding why masks are important is the first step in helping children overcome any issues.

Devon Breithart, an occupational therapist in Seattle, Wash., Says power struggles with children – like whether or not to put on that mask – often come from being asked to do things without knowing why. to be. When a child is frustrated with a directive they don’t understand, problems arise.

To avoid this kind of deadlock, Breithart recommends that parents say something as simple as, “We wear them so we don’t get sick and so we don’t make other people sick. “

“Telling them why they’re doing this can really help,” she says.

Find a mask that fits correctly

The American Academy of Pediatrics says it is safe for children 2 years of age and older to wear a face cover and suggests that face masks fit over the mouth and nose, snugly on the side of the face without any space. Karp echoes these guidelines and shares some tips for finding the perfect fit regardless of your child’s age or size.

The The happiest baby in the neighborhood The author compares buying the perfect face mask to trying on various pairs of shoes until you find a pair that works.

“If this isn’t quite right the first time around or if it’s uncomfortable for your child, try something else rather than trying to force him into something uncomfortable,” suggests Karp. “You want the mask to cover from the bridge of the nose to the chin and be snug, but not too tight to leave a mark on the face.”

Test different styles and fabrics to find their favorite

Breithart says parents may need to try out different styles of masks to get the right fit. For example, if your child finds masks with earrings always too tight or itchy, try a style that ties at the back. Likewise, if their mask itches, try a softer fabric.

She also recommends a little empathy.

“If you are an adult and can wear your mask without a problem, it seems like it doesn’t matter,” she explains, “but it can be annoying or even painful for your child.”

Andrea Johnson, a mom from Vista, Calif., Knows this all too well.

“Something I learned that helped us get our daughter to wear masks was to get fabrics that she loved,” said Johnson, who learned how to make masks by hand early in the day. pandemic.

Johnson says the key to successfully wearing masks in her home was being able to choose fabrics that her 3-year-old daughter liked like Frozen and baby shark prints and any fabric in her favorite color, pink. In school, however, what works best for Johnson’s daughter is wearing store-bought sheet masks that she can easily put on and take off on her own.

After some trial and error, Jessica Stephens of Charlestown, Indiana discovered that her eldest daughter preferred disposable masks over cloth masks.

“For her, they are easier to breathe and they adapt better,” says Stephens. “They don’t pull on his ears and they don’t feel that thick.”

The 8-year-old also discovered that she preferred assorted mask packs – packs containing multiple masks in different colors – so she could match her mask to her outfit.

Stephens adds that even when your child finds a mask they like, it’s easy for these masks to get lost or fall to the ground. The Indiana mom is now buying mask cords so she doesn’t have to worry about her kids’ favorite masks falling to the floor and getting lost when they take them off.

Give children choice and control

Breithart says that by insisting that you give your kids the choice of their masks – where you can – allows them to feel some control in a situation where they have very little of it.

“Even helping them choose from a few different styles so they can decide what’s most comfortable can be helpful,” she says, “especially when they don’t really have a say in where and when they want to. must wear a mask. “

Johnson has tried this tactic in his own home and says it really works.

“I give [my daughter] a choice of two or three masks each day and she picks one to wear and packs one to have one more, “she shares.” Letting her choose helps her feel like a big girl. “

Encourage children to wear a mask (Yes, really!)

Karp offers a number of suggestions for getting children to put on (and keep) their masks. Allowing kids to decorate their mask, getting extra face covers to put on stuffed animals, using a reward board to track successful mask wear, or even giving your kid’s mask an original name are all ways to make a difference. slightly more fun difficult task.

“If you call it ‘Protecto Mask’ or something, it gives the mask a little bit of personality,” Karp says, “whatever makes a mask more fun and normalizes it so it’s not that big of a deal. “

Breithart suggests writing a social story – a story that tells in advance about an experience a child may have in real life – about wearing the mask with your child. In the story, Breithart suggests including details about why people wear masks and when they wear them, as well as photos of yourself or other people your kids know wearing their own masks.

“Social stories are a technique we often use with autistic children,” says Breithart of the tool, which pediatric therapists often use to provide counseling about future circumstances to their patients, “but it can be very effective for children or normally developing children. with other disabilities too. “

Set a good example

For parents, Karp says modeling mask wearing by putting on your own face covering, even if you’re vaccinated, can help kids get on board.

“Wearing your own mask sets an example for your children,” he says, “and helps them recognize that they can also set an example for others.”

Johnson says this is one of his biggest tactics.

“Even though we are both fully vaccinated, my husband and I still wear our masks all the time,” she shares. “I don’t think our daughter would be so receptive to wearing a mask if we didn’t too. She sees us doing it, so she knows how to do it.”


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