Due to COVID-19, wearing a face mask everywhere we go is now a new normal, and from the look of things, it doesn’t appear that it will change soon. In countries where schools have reopened, students are required to wear masks, and by this, it is likely that when schools in Nigeria reopen, face masks would be made compulsory for students.
As adults, we know the importance of wearing a mask and we are getting used to it; that can’t be said for kids. They don’t like anything that makes them uncomfortable. Therefore, to make your children comfortable with a face mask and not struggle with it if required when schools open, we have provided some helpful tips.
However, before we share the tips, it is worth stating that wearing a face mask only, is not enough to protect against COVID-19. As advised by NCDC, it must be combined with other prevention measures such as social distancing and regular handwashing. Also, it is recommended that a face mask shouldn’t be used for children younger than two years, because of the danger of suffocation.
If your children are at least two years old, follow these steps to make them comfortable with a face mask.
Tips for Making Kids Comfortable in Face Mask
- Give them the reason and explain in simple terms
Like adults, kids want to know the reason they are asked to do something or follow instruction. This is why you need to explain to your children the reason they need to wear a face mask. Simple way parents explain to their children is by telling them that as sneezing to the elbow helps prevent the spread of germs, wearing a face mask also helps to prevent the spread of germs too.
Make your children realize that due to the coronavirus pandemic, wearing a face mask is now a part of personal hygiene that must be taken seriously, especially when going out of the house. To solidify your explanation, tell them that wearing a face mask is now considered as an act of kindness, as it shows people you care about them and you are playing your part in ensuring that the coronavirus is not spread.
- Practice at home step-by-step
Putting on a face mask for a long time is not comfortable for adults, not to talk of kids. So, to get your children comfortable with it, you need to take them through the process, step-by-step. Start on a day your children are well-rested, well-fed, and in a happy mood.
Initially, when you ask them to put on the mask, they may not want to do it. Thay may instead start touching and sniffing it. Allow them to do this for some time so that they can build the confidence to put it on.
After spending some minutes touching and sniffing, encourage them to try it on for some seconds, and then start increasing the time spent putting on the mask.
- Acknowledge their frustration
If not for the online learning platforms deployed by some schools, many kids are already getting frustrated that schools are on lockdown and that they can’t see their teachers and friends. With this frustration in place, if you go to them with the idea of learning how to wear a face mask comfortably, they may get more frustrated.
They would see it as another abnormal way of life that the pandemic is forcing on them. Therefore, as you plan to introduce face mask-wearing to your children, acknowledge their frustration, be sympathetic and say words of encouragement.
- Compliment them and make it fun
When your children start putting on the mask – because they aren’t used to it – they would remove it at intervals. To minimize this and encourage them to keep it on for a long time, shower them with lots of compliments. Don’t only comment or complain when your children touch the mask; also, praise them when they go for a long period without touching it.
To make wearing the mask fun, engage them in some interesting activities such as playing their favourite games, dancing, painting, or reading their favourite storybooks. You can also ask them to put a mask on their toys, dolls, or stuffed animals. Making them do this would not only make them have fun wearing the mask but also distract them from touching it.
- Give command politely but be consistent
Even when your children have become comfortable putting on the mask, It will take lots of time for them to consciously stop touching it. To help them get used to not touching it, you would need to keep telling them to desist from touching the face mask – but you must do it politely.
Instead of angrily yelling, “Stop touching your mask!!” pleasantly say, “Please keep your hands away from your face.” At the same time, if any of your kids want to follow you to a place, you may blatantly say “You can’t go with me if you don’t wear your mask.” Instead of that, say, “If you would like to go with me, you’ll need to wear a mask, please.”
The rule here is to limit the use of negative words such as “No,” “Can’t” and “Don’t” when asking your children to use the mask as expected.
- Use incentives
Overtimes, parents have realized that yelling or spanking isn’t an effective way to make children adopt the desired behaviour. They have realized that using rewards and incentives is one of the better options. Therefore, as you start making your children practise how to be comfortable wearing a face mask, encourage them with incentives.
The incentives can be anything from buying them a favourite meal to allowing them more time to play or watch their favourite TV shows.
- Be a role mole
It can be very difficult if you want your children to do something you aren’t doing yourself. So, if you want your children to be comfortable wearing a face mask, you need to wear it, too. When they see you and your partner wearing the mask every time you leave the house, they would most likely want to follow your lead.
- Give a break
When you notice that your children are getting overwhelmed while practising how to get used to the face mask, give them a break. Doing this would help calm their body and make them more relaxed for the next rehearsal session.
At first, it will be a bit challenging to get your children comfortable with a face mask. But the earlier you start encouraging them to start using it, the better ready they will be if it is made compulsory when schools reopen.