We all know our children have been stressed by all the chaos and concern regarding COVID-19. We've done our best to mitigate the impact but, undoubtedly, they are continuing to feel some level of stress.
So in the middle of this, how can we make mask wearing something that does not add to that stress? It depends upon your child's age and individual characteristics but consider the following strategies:
1. Talk about masks being an important part of keeping everyone safe - them and others. If they are old enough, share statistics on the positive health impact for communities at large. Share impact for personal circles as well - the people they love like grandparents, friends, and other family members emphasizing the concept of "keeping them healthy" rather than "stopping them from getting very sick" (which might serve to increase their worry... our words matter). 2. Model mask-wearing. Avoid complaining or, if you find yourself complaining, describe honestly your struggles but balance those comments with how you know how very important it is. Spend more time talking about the positive impact than the struggles. 3. Give them choice or personalize the mask. If possible, make or acquire a mask or masks that is a design they like. If not possible to select the fabric, consider how you can add something fun to the mask (their name? colors on the earbands?, a little bit of glitter?) 4. Encourage them to practice for short periods of time at home and positively notice them for doing so. Extend this into other environments where you may go together. When I asked my five-year-old granddaughter what helped her feel good about wearing a mask she responded, "Well, when I wear a mask, I know it is because I am going to somewhere fun like going to see friends or out for ice cream." Connect mask wearing with happy events as much as possible! 5. LIsten if they express physical discomfort...there may be a simple adjustment that can make a world of difference or it may be something that simply requires becoming accustomed to and that will need to be explained. 6. Young children may benefit from engaging in a task such as making a mask for their favorite stuffed toy or doll. 7. You can enhance their positivity about mask-wearing by taking pictures of your child wearing the mask and sharing with family members/friends who can respond by saying how cool or cute they look or how proud they are of them for caring about people. 8. Share pictures of other people they love wearing masks and talk about how they care about taking care of others 9. Teach the concept of "happy eyes" - smile with your mask on and have them notice your eyes. Have them smile and, in a mirror, have them notice their own eyes. Talk about other ways we can show feelings of happiness with our bodies when our mouths are covered. Explore other emotions and how they are shared through one's eyes and body language. 10. Teach them safe times when they can have the mask off (like if it is just the people in their family in the car). Then help them feel as positive as possible when it comes time to pop the mask on (e.g., "Super hero time! Let's put on our masks and get out there!")
Wishing you all the best as you continue through these challenging times, Dyane