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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

6 ways to make wearing a face mask less scary for young kids

Posted July 7, 2020 9:00 p.m. EDT

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Public health experts agree that wearing a face mask can lower the risk of transmitting the coronavirus to others.

The masks trap droplets that come out when we talk, cough or sneeze, preventing the chance that they'll reach somebody else. If you have COVID-19, even without symptoms, wearing a mask can keep you from spreading those germs to another person. For the person who might otherwise receive your germs, that could mean the difference between life, death or a lengthy hospital stay.

Masks or face coverings are currently required in North Carolina in public spaces when social distancing isn't possible. Exemptions in the state law include kids under 11, but that doesn't mean all parents are choosing to let their kids go without a mask. In fact, many summer camps are urging children to wear masks this summer, and masks could be required for some students as the school year begins this fall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that infants and toddlers under the age of 2 should not wear cloth face coverings. But, in cases where physical distancing isn't possible, the pediatricians group recommends face masks for most other kids, barring other health issues.

But covering our faces while out in public doesn't feel natural for nearly all of us. And, for young children, it can feel downright scary. For kids who may be reluctant to don a mask, the academy shares the following tips:

  • Look in the mirror with the face coverings on and talk about it.
  • Put a cloth face covering on a favorite stuffed animal.
  • Decorate them so they're more personalized and fun.
  • Show your child pictures of other children wearing them.
  • Draw one on their favorite book character.
  • Practice wearing the face covering at home to help your child get used to it.

In other words, look for ways to normalize face masks in your own house, working the topic into your day-to-day routine as you play, read and interact with your child.

Another thing that will help kids get used to wearing masks — seeing adults wear them too, the group says.

"One of the biggest challenges with having children wear cloth face coverings relates to them 'feeling different' or stereotyping them as being sick," the group writes. "As more people wear these cloth face coverings, children will get used to them and not feel singled out or strange about wearing them."

The academy's website has more information on ways to help kids get used to wearing face masks.