School is starting back up in a couple of weeks, and many of you may be wondering how your child will fare with the new mask requirements (for those children 2.5 and older.)
First of all, I want to reassure you that your child is likely to do better with them than you think. Many children behave differently at school than they do at home, and if everyone else is wearing a mask, they are likely to as well. Additionally, I have heard from almost all of my fellow school directors and assistant directors that, although there was concern in the beginning, the children (for the most part) have had no trouble wearing the masks.
Please also remember that your child will have several “mask breaks” during the day and while eating or sleeping.
You can make it even easier on your little one by preparing them through some or all of the following ideas.
Talk about WHY and Keep it POSITIVE
Remember that children mirror the opinions and emotions of the adults in their lives. Be honest about why we have to wear masks (to keep others and ourselves safe from sickness) but don’t be scary. Remind them of all the people they know that wear masks (doctors, nurses, policemen, firefighters, Batman, etc.) Use easy to understand language and positive phrases. “Many people are sick right now. Wearing a mask helps protect you from germs.”
Integrate masks into your child’s favorite pretend play themes. Encourage them to dress up as a doctor/nurse/veterinarian. Put a mask on your child’s favorite stuffed animal or doll.
Use Photographs and Zoom
We all look different with masks on. Put masks on and take silly selfies or make faces in the mirror to see all the ways you can make goofy faces with just your eyes. Ask family members, teachers, and friends to take pictures of themselves wearing a mask. During Zoom meetings encourage participants to wear their mask along with your child during some or all of the meeting.
Make your child’s face mask their own. Try a variety of styles and fabrics to find one that your child is most comfortable in for the school day. Masks come in styles with ear loops, ties, bandana style or as neck gators. Include your child in picking the style and pattern. Your child can also decorate their own mask with stickers or fabric paint/markers.
Start with the familiar; choose clothing that your child already wears and turn it into a mask (scarf, balaclava, bandana.) You can also break wearing a mask down into smaller steps, then practice and reinforce each step. Start slow. If your child is resistant to wearing a mask, limit mask-wearing to a few minutes at a time at first. Children often benefit from knowing when they can stop doing something difficult. Try these initial steps:
1. Holding the mask
2. Putting against the face
3. Securing the elastic
Some strategies for building up the amount of time spent wearing the mask:
1. Set a timer (start with 1-2 minutes if child is very resistant)
2. Wear a mask for the length of a favorite song
3. Wear the mask on a drive until you see a white car, then take a break until you see another white car
4. Wear the mask while watching a favorite television show or cartoon.
5. Wear the mask during a favorite movie.
Social Stories and Songs about Wearing a Mask
Share with your child some social stories and songs about wearing a mask. Here are a couple:
We Wear Masks
Wear a Mask Song for Kids