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Let's talk about face mask wearing for kids. In the world we are currently in, face mask wearing is a part of our day to day life and I wanted to provide some support for parents as we navigate face coverings with our families.
Well guys, I think it's safe to say, this year is not what any of us expected. By a long shot. Here we are, in the midst of an unprecedented time. As we practice social distancing, and as we have a heightened awareness of public health practices……face mask wearing for kids and adults has become a necessity. Now is this fun? Absolutely not. But is it necessary? Yes it is.
Recently my friend Jessica shared some thoughts on her Instagram (you can see them here) about how she is normalizing mask wearing for her daughter (who is just a little younger than Lydia). It inspired me to start a dialog here about how to make this, a little easier for our kids.
Now here's the thing. This is new for most of us, and therefore uncomfortable. Cloth face coverings aren't a norm here in the United States, but they are becoming one (at least for now). And whenever our kids navigate a new behavior, they take their cues from us. So here we go. My biggest point? Do not complain about mask wearing in front of your children. This is going to make it a LOT harder for them. A lot of how this goes? Is going to depend how we frame it for our kids. Is this new? Absolutely. Is it a little “weird”? Yes it is. Is it important to do as a part of our collective responsibility? Yes it is. Language and tone is important here. We want to remind our children that wearing a mask is what we need to do to keep the people around us safe from germs.
Preparing for the School Year: Face Mask Wearing for Kids
So let's talk behavior tips. How can we make this as easy as possible. Start small. You're going to practice wearing masks at home for short periods of time. Instead of going out into the world and expecting your child to wear a mask for hours at a time. Start with 10 minutes. Work your way up to an hour.
Timeline at School or Out and About: Realistically, how long will your child need to wear a mask? This was one of the questions I asked Lydia's school as we tried to get more information about returning and opening in the fall. Are we talking full days? Are we talking about a trip to the grocery store? Think of this like training for something new. You want to know the end goal. It will help you as a parent to figure out your priorities. I know every child is different, as are their needs and their tolerances. Listen to your child as you try different time frames. Some kids will be fine and comfortable wearing a mask for hours, some will not. That will help you to determine family decisions.
Comfortable and Fun Options: Let's talk comfort and fun. On a basic level, prints are fun. Lydia will pick her princess print mask or a color she loves each and every time. So my first suggestion? Let your child pick prints and colors they love. It's a simple thing, but it will make a difference. We have matching mommy and me masks and as silly as it sounds, it's just more fun to wear them.
In terms of comfort, this is going to be a trial and error situation. Fabrics make a difference, types of ear loops. Try different ones. Try face shields. We have a drawer full of masks now, and when we DO leave the house? Lydia chooses her own. It's interesting to see that she gravitates towards prints she loves and softer fabrics.
Why Do We Wear Masks: There are two ways to frame mask wearing for our kids. And I suggest especially for the younger ones (like ages 8 and below) that you talk about BOTH of these perspectives. We wear masks to keep the people around us safe. We also wear masks to keep ourselves safe when we do things we need to or want to do. For example, we want to go to the beach here in San Diego? Our beaches are open, and social distancing has been easy. But the entrance to and from most San Diego beaches? It's usually a set of stairs. So we wear masks as we enter and leave. How do I explain that to Lydia? We wear masks when we can not be super far apart from people. It's so that we CAN go to the beach. It's so that we could go strawberry picking back in May. It's so that we could go to the outdoor Safari Park. We haven't done much, but Lydia knows that we were able to do the things we have done because we followed the rules and wore masks correctly.
Reflect and Discuss:
I suggest asking a set of questions. “How do you feel?” “Does this feel comfortable? Uncomfortable?”
Your child is the master of their own feelings. They can 100% tell you how they feel. It's a matter of us listening, and adjusting. Then making decisions that navigate within what our children can do.
I hope this is helpful in navigating face mask wearing for kids. I know it's hard. But I also want to remind you (and myself) this is temporary. This will not last forever.