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Children and COVID-19: 5 Tips to Encourage Wearing Masks

The Coronavirus pandemic is changing our world in ways that we never imagined. The virus was non-existent in the human population less than a year ago. As parents and caregivers, we are tasked with protecting our children and ourselves from this often baffling and sometimes fatal illness. CDC Guidelines emphasize that people over the age of 2 wear a mask or cloth face covering when in public, especially when social distancing of 6 feet isn’t possible.

The healthcare professionals at Infinite Therapy Solutions know that helping children with masks can be a struggle. Follow these 5 tips on how to encourage your children to wear masks to protect themselves and others while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.

1. Age-Appropriate Discussion

Explain the importance of wearing masks with age-appropriate language. For kids who are 3 or under, you may want to just say that people are wearing face masks to keep each other from getting sick. For older kids, you can discuss details about germs, stating that masks are used to prevent the passing of germs from one person to another.

The thought of wearing a mask can be scary for some younger children. It often helps to practice wearing a mask at home before going out in public. You can always put your mask on with your child and look in the mirror together, talking about how it looks and feels.

2. Make Adjustments for Special Needs

If your child has a developmental delay or special needs, such as autism, you may need to change your strategies a bit. The social story is a technique supported by the Autism Research Institute. It combines colorful pictures with simple language to depict how others in the community are using masks. The social story may be helpful for children without disabilities as well.

3. Familiarity and Practice

It wouldn’t be unusual for anyone, whether or not they have a disability, to experience at least some sensory discomfort.  Give your child ample time to practice wearing a mask in a familiar environment first, such as the backyard, or while watching television.

You can also create opportunities to put mask-wearing into your daily routine.  Have your kids help you wash them out and hang them in a convenient spot. It’s just like putting backpacks or eyeglasses someplace where they won’t be forgotten.

4. Make it Fun

Add enjoyment to the dreariness! Let kids express their creativity by choosing colors, and decorating with sequins and buttons. Smaller children will happily keep their favorite stuffed toys “safe” by giving them their own special masks. The CDC has instructions on how to make sew and non-sew cloth face coverings.  You can even reinforce positive behavior by play-acting as kids teach toys on how to stay safe and practice good hygiene. 

5. Modeling

Finally and ever-so-important: Parents and caregivers must set the example of proper mask-wearing at all times. Amy Morin, LCSW of Verywell Family emphasizes how all kids, whether young ones or teens are watching our every move — therefore it’s critical that we model behaviors we want to see in our children.  Show them by your actions that wearing a mask to help keep your community safe is something to be proud of.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explain the importance of wearing masks in age-appropriate language.
  • Children with special needs may require adjustments in communication methods.
  • Practice helps to increase familiarity.
  • Make it fun!
  • Model mask-wearing behavior.

Infinite Therapy Solutions is a pediatric therapy center offering physical and occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral therapy. Our Bayonne and West Orange clinics are completely compliant with all COVID-19 recommendations. To learn more about how we inspire pediatric achievements in all children, please contact us or call 201-455-3144.