Helping your Child to Wear a Mask
Is it too much to mask? Nothing seems easy during this time and asking a young child to wear a mask can be one more thing on a parent's to-do list that can seem impossible.
In talking to our families, we have heard the following:
"He moves so much that it's hard for him to breathe when wearing a mask."
"She has sensory sensitivities and the mask seems to bother her; she always takes it off."
"He won't even wear a hat when it's cold out. How can I expect him to wear a mask?"
We know! It's so challenging, especially for children with sensory challenges or autism. But, it is important that we keep trying, especially as mask mandates become stricter and infection rates continue to rise. Here are some tips that will hopefully allow your child to wear a mask more consistently.
Talk About Why We are Wearing Masks
At this point, we may just assume that our child knows why we are covering our faces. However, it is always worth a check-in to ensure comprehension. Social stories that incorporate visuals can help. There are easy printables on the web or even videos, like this one. Using vocabulary such as "staying safe" and "not sharing germs" can also be helpful. Be sure to also explain why we cover our mouths and noses. If looking for some tips on how to talk about coronavirus with your child, here's a great link.
When your child is in a place that makes them feel safe and regulated, practice wearing masks. Start for short periods of time and build up for longer stretches. Try and make it fun by having the whole family join in. Some ideas to try would be:
Listening to a fun song and wearing a mask from the beginning to the end.
Making facial expressions while wearing a mask and trying to guess what your partner is feeling.
Playing a game of "telephone" while wearing masks - the answer can get even crazier when that mask is making the whispers even quieter!
Children learn the most through play. Think of ways to incorporate mask wearing in your child's symbolic play. Put masks on stuffed animals. Include masks in your child's doctor's kit. Let superheroes deliver masks to those in need. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!
Find the Right Mask
For our children with sensory sensitivities, very active children, or those who wear glasses, finding the right mask can be a task in itself. It's important that the mask is as comfortable as possible - check that the straps aren't too tight around your child's ears or too snug under his/her chin.
For kids who wear glasses, the fog-factor is real! The trick is to find a mask that hugs the nose. These masks from www.toptrenz.com come in a variety of styles and fit the bill!
Picky Kid? Let her Pick!
There are a myriad of mask options out there. If your child is picky, allow him/her some control in the choice of mask. Having some fun and playful options is key. The most important thing is that your child feels comfortable and stays safe!
Create a New Routine
All of us benefit from routines, but children often need a routine in order to achieve consistency. Place your masks by the door you use when leaving the house. One routine might be: Put on your shoes. Put on your coat. Put on your mask.
It goes without saying that parents are wearing masks. However, it's important that parents use positive language around mask wearing. Try not to complain about your mask or express distress about the current state of the world around your child. Children are always listening and watching. If they see that wearing a mask isn't a big deal for you, it will be less of a big deal for them.