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Wearing a mask is a new thing for kids returning back-to-school in-person. Here are some general thoughts offered by Katelyn Beyer, BA, CCLS, Coordinator of Child Life Services, Certified Child Life Specialist, regarding mask-wearing that would be helpful for parents going into this year/back-to-school:
Create! As with many new experiences, children thrive off of having a set routine so they will at some point become comfortable with wearing a mask all day, but this will indeed take practice. The best thing that parents can do is offer them as many choices as possible as this gives children a sense of control. Giving them an option or different options for what kind/type of mask, what type of fabric, cartoon/print, decorating mask with art supplies i.e.
Practice! Practice makes perfect! Give children the chance to practice wearing their mask in the house before school begins for hours at a time (2 hours, 4 hours, i.e.). They may want to try this with different masks to see which one they feel most comfortable in. If parents give them a reward for wearing their masks at first, this may help give some initiative.
Normalize! Validate/normalize their feelings regarding mask-wearing. This is a new, unfamiliar experience for most children since COVID-19, so make certain that you are acknowledging their emotions and feelings, whether positive or negative. Try to find out what is making them feel the way they do and use this as an opportunity to educate them about why we wear masks to help keep other’s and ourselves safe and help stop the spread of the virus.
Play! If you have younger children, play is the best way to allow children to become comfortable and familiar with something new. Get some stuffed animals out and allow the children to practice putting masks on the stuffed animals, washing hands, not touching their face while playing “school” at home while teaching their stuffed animals about the importance of these new rules to help keep everyone safe and healthy.
Give yourself grace! For at-home learning, this will be a huge adjustment for everyone in the family. First, determine a visual schedule with your child/children which will help you create a new routine for the week. The schedule should mimic a normal day, such as getting up, getting dressed/brushing teeth, breakfast, and then choosing what they would like to do school-wise and what various activities they would like to do during their play breaks and snack breaks. It may help to have a large family calendar that you can make together with your child that will help them feel excited about this new normal. Get the whole family involved!