09 Sep MY CHILD NEEDS TO WEAR A MASK TO SCHOOL? Are you kidding?!

By Kim Edwards, PhD, C Psych
Clinical and Health Psychologist

You’ve just heard that your child needs to wear a mask in order to return to school. Your child is freaking out. You are stressed and wondering, “how am I ever going to prepare my child, within the next 2 weeks, for wearing a mask to school for 8 hours a day?!”

To all the parents and caregivers navigating this challenging situation, these tips and tricks are for you.

Remember: Masks are only recommended for children over two years of age.

1. Explain why it is important to wear a masks

  • Use language children can understand to explain the concept of germ such as:  
    • “Germs are special to our body…some are good and some are bad. The bad ones can make us sick. Since we do not always know which germs are good or bad, wearing a mask can help make sure we keep any bad germs away from our body.” 
    • “Wearing masks will help keep others and us safe. “
  • Discuss how mask wearing is a current rule (similar to other rules – e.g., wearing shoes when we go outside)
  • Show your child pictures of other children wearing masks.
  • Validate frustrations with mask wearing

2. Be a Mask Role Model

  • Show your child how to put a mask on
  • See if your child wants to help you
  • Tell your child prior to putting on your mask
  • Wear your mask properly
    • A. Teach your child to wash hands before touching the mask (for 20 seconds)
    • B.  Then put the loop around ears, 
    • C. Ensure the mask covers the nose, chin, and mouth fully
    • D. Wash cloth masks after ever use

3. Decorate the mask or let your child pick out his/her mask

  • Engage your child with the mask design (let them pick out colour, fabric, and design)
  • Decorating masks is fine if it does not affect mask integrity (it is not recommended to draw on paper or surgical masks)

4. Practice wearing the mask at home

  • Consistency helps form good habits!
  • Start with short periods of time to help your child get used to it. Gradually increase the length of time as your child gets better and better at wearing masks. 
  • Wear the masks while doing some fun activities at home
    • You could even make play masks for stuffed animals or dolls

5.  Reward Efforts

  • Build in small rewards for your child’s efforts at following a mask wearing plan. 
  • Brainstorm rewards with your child. Here are some examples of rewards.
    • Special activities such as letting your child choose the family dinner 
    • Tangible rewards such as letting your child choose an item from the dollar store 
    • Consider creating a token or sticker chart where your child can earn chips or tokens on a daily basis for wearing masks that can be later exchanged for rewards using a rewards menu.

If you and/or your child are experiencing challenges, questions, and/or anxiety around mask wearing, please reach out to us. We offer individualized sessions, based in the best available science, to help you learn coping strategies to manage mask wearing. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for all of us. At Possibilities, we are here to support the physical and emotional toll these unprecedented times are having on our community. We remain connected and committed to caring. 

Sources: Healthychildren.org (American Academy of Pediatrics) and CS Mott Children’s Hospital: Making Masks Fun Tips (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaENofVC_5w&t=98s)