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How to help children feel good about wearing a mask?

Atualizado: 22 de set. de 2020

Adapting to wearing masks can be stressful, especially for children. Professor Ana Eliza Port Lourenço shares in this post suggestions created by the pedagogical team of the Monroe County Community School Corporation in Indiana, USA, to help children feel good about wearing, and seeing others wearing face coverings.

Photo: Ana Eliza Port Lourenço & Liz Lourenço Guarieiro

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, wearing a face mask is recommended for people over two years of age to help to control the Covid-19 pandemic. The mask should be worn whenever people are in public places, especially in situations where it is difficult to keep adequate social distancing.

Many schools plan to resume in-person classes soon, and it may take days or weeks for children to feel comfortable about wearing a face cover. It takes a lot of repetition to create a new habit. We must begin to talk about it as soon as possible with our kiddos and even practice with them.

I share some suggestions for families to work with children at home, which can also be helpful for educators to develop activities in schools or guide the families.

The first step is to explain in simple terms the reasons for wearing a face covering. We can say, for example, that the mask is to "protect you, your classmates and family, to help everyone staying healthy". The language can be adapted according to children’s age. The most important thing is to explain to children, even when they are very young.

Read stories, watch videos, and view photos of characters wearing masks are some suggestions to bring in the topic. Many authors and animators have posted resources online that may be useful right now. Especially older children often interact easily with awareness videos.

Having masks with characters on it or in the child's favorite colors can also help. When it is possible, children can participate in choosing their masks, making homemade models, or helping to customize it with the letters of their names or other creative ideas.

To make wearing a mask more natural and fun, it is worth encouraging imaginative play, such as making silly faces or pretending to be superheroes. Another tip is to encourage the child to put masks on dolls, stuffed animals, and on family members. The stuffed animals in this post image are my daughter’s, who is five years old. Putting face covering in toys was a fun hit with her!

Changes in school routine can scare children. It is worth practicing wearing masks during leisure time, such as watching a movie or playing at home, to show that masks are not only for situations that are new or scary. It is important to reassure our little ones, reinforcing that the changes are for the protection of everyone's health.

It is essential to be patient and allow the child to work up to wearing a mask gradually. Celebrate every stage, every successful step. The first phase to create the habit is getting acquainted with the mask. At this stage, we should only encourage the child to touch and hold the mask, put it on the face, and feel the fabric.

The second step is to encourage the child to wear the mask, even only for a few seconds. It is good to ask for the child’s help to verify if the mask is comfortable and with adequate size, covering nose and mouth, but allowing to breathe easily. There are different models of masks, some with adjustment on the head (instead of the ear), which can be more comfortable. There are also ways to adapt the mask on hair bows and tips to reconcile masks and glasses.

In a third phase, we should then gradually increase time with face covering on to minutes and hours. It may be interesting to use clocks or other visual timers to help children.

When the child is more comfortable about wearing it, you will also need to talk to her/him about the care of always covering the nose and mouth, not touching the mask of others and never sharing your mask with anyone.

We are living different times. But our children are resilient and will surprise us by overcoming these challenges!

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