Jul 28, 2020


Back to school time is upon us, and many schools are reopening. A big concern for parents is getting their kids to keep masks on all day. For some kids, it's easy. For others, it may be a bit of a challenge.

At my office, I wear eye protection and a mask all day every day, and it can be super annoying. As an adult and one who falls in a few high-risk categories, including being an asthmatic, I get the reasons why. It still doesn't make it any more comfortable. And now we want kids to wear the same protection at school.

I think the first step to doing this is to be honest with kids about why it's important to keep the mask on. It's amazing how kids as young as three really seem to get it. If I ask them to take their mask off so I can look up their nose or in their mouth, they get anxious. I let them know it's okay. I'm standing back from them, and I have all my gear on and I won't step closer to them until their mask is back up. They understand this, and they feel better when their mask is back up.

So if you talk to your kids about the reasons why they have to wear the mask, they're more likely to keep it on. And when they're doing a good job keeping their mask on, give them a lot of praise. Kids love to know when they are doing a good job. And so if you make wearing a mask a situation where they get a lot of positive praise, they'll do it more often and it will become easier.

Second, make the mask fun. Now I know some schools that require uniforms are making kids have masks that match their uniforms. But for those who can wear whatever masks they choose, let the kids have a say in picking them out. I try to coordinate stickers to match their masks at the end of the visits, like when a dad and a son came in wearing matching Spiderman masks recently, I made sure my patient got a Spiderman sticker after I checked him out. My sister used fabric with soccer balls for my younger son, and my older son got bacon fabric. Matching their masks to their personalities and their favorite characters really can go a long way to having kids keep their masks on. Plus kids really like to check out what kind of masks other kids have on and compare them. Use peer pressure to your advantage here.

Next, make sure you get a mask that fits properly. If the mask is too big, it will keep falling down, and your kid will have to keep touching it. If it's too small, it won't fit properly from their nose to under their chin. Make sure it is snug against their face so there are no gaps. Use adjustable ear loops if you can.

Another thing that must be considered is how to have special needs children were a mask. Many of these same tips apply to those children as well. Lots of praise. Practice at home so they are comfortable wearing the mask for short periods at first and then longer periods. Get masks that are fun for them and make sure they fit properly.

As kids go back to school, a few more tips. Teachers, let's find a way to keep them safe too. The teachers and all the school staff need to be protected as well. With a few exceptions, kids love their teachers. I think that became even more apparent when distance learning happened. If you explain to your kids that by them wearing the protective masks they are helping to keep all the adults at school safe, their friends safe, and themselves safe, it will make the mask wearing easier.

And, of course, the most important thing you can do to encourage your child to wear a mask is for you to wear yours as well. I've seen families who have all the same fabric mask. I've seen sisters where one has an Anna mask and the other has an Elsa mask. I've seen brothers with all the different Avengers.

Do whatever you need in order to make masking up a positive part of your new routine, because unfortunately this new routine may be around for a while.

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