Helping Kids Get Used to Masks

In many places, people are wearing masks or cloth face coverings when they’re in public because of coronavirus (COVID-19). It’s an important way to help slow the spread of the virus.

At first, it was mostly doctors, nurses, and others in health care settings who wore masks. But now, as other people wear them, more and more kids are seeing something they’re not used to seeing. For them, it can be strange or a little scary, especially if they need to put on masks too.

Most kids can feel comfortable seeing people in masks, as long as adults:

Some toddlers and young children may feel uneasy about masks. They may need extra support and comfort from parents. Parents also can help kids understand why they might need to wear a mask, and make them more comfortable and even fun to wear. Kids under 2 years old should not wear a mask.

How Do Kids React to Masks?

How kids react to seeing masks partly depends on their age. Older kids might not react much at all. To them, masks might seem like no big deal. Most are able to adjust pretty quickly.

Some kids may even be eager to wear a mask. They might embrace their new look as a medical superhero.

But for babies, toddlers, and young kids, seeing people in masks might take some getting used to. At first, they may feel cautious. They may need a few minutes to look and watch. That can help them get used to what’s new. They may need a parent to gently say, “It’s OK.” That can help them relax.

Some babies, toddlers, and young kids may feel upset or afraid. They might cry, hide their face, or cling to a parent. Soothing words, comfort, and the safety of a parent’s lap can help calm them.

Why Do Some Young Kids Feel Scared of Masks?

Masks hide part of a person’s face. Young children rely on faces. From the time they are babies, young children look at faces for the signals they need to feel safe.

When faces are partly hidden by masks, kids can’t see the friendly smile or familiar look that usually puts them at ease. When kids can’t see the person’s whole face, it’s harder to feel safe. It’s natural to feel scared.

But slowly and gently, parents can help kids feel more comfortable. Even very young kids can learn that something that seemed too scary at first is not so scary after all.

How Can Parents Help Kids Wear a Mask?

Masks or cloth face coverings on adults and kids over 2 years old can help slow the spread of the virus. Here are some ways to help kids wear masks when you go out:

For older kids:

For younger kids who feel upset by masks:

Read the full article, reviewed by Jana L. Teagle, CTRS, CCLS, CBIS, here.

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