As a pediatrician, I’ve mastered sterile procedure, mask-wearing, and cared for many sick children who wore masks themselves. However, mask-wearing is understandably a major lifestyle change for most people. Since face coverings are a safe and important way to prevent the spread of Covid-19, I hope these positive parenting tips can help encourage your kids to wear masks.
Before practicing and putting on the masks, discuss the benefits, modeling positivity, and giving your child room to be curious.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general educational purposes only. Please see a local, board-certified physician for personal medical advice.
How masks can prevent infection
Since Covid-19 is a respiratory infection that can be contagious even when people have no apparent symptoms, masks can protect people in 3 ways:
- Blocking your infectious sprays (eg, cough, sneeze) from splashing onto other people
- Creating a seal around your nose and mouth to prevent infectious droplets from entering or leaving the sides of the mask
- Preventing other people’s infectious droplets from entering your nose and mouth (and therefore respiratory tract)
Of course, we need to remember that masks are not effective as an isolated strategy. Infection prevention also depends on:
- The quality and fit of the mask
- How many people are correctly wearing masks
- Herd immunity (eg, when most people are vaccinated to Covid-19)
- Physical distancing
- Proper hand-washing
Other benefits of wearing masks
For those who need some humor to encourage mask-wearing, I’ve heard other moms share that masks are great for hiding the following:
- Bad breath
- Cold sores
- Facial acne
- Food stuck in the teeth
- Rogue upper lip and chin hairs
- Your face if you want to be incognito at the store!
Encourage kids to wear masks with these 8 tips
Here are tips that can help your kids (age 2 years and up) get used to wearing a mask:
- Demonstrate to your child how you put on a face mask
- Talk about why wearing masks is important for protecting, neighbors, and the most vulnerable people
- Read books about the human body (Chinese, English, and Korean) to learn about how we fight infection
- Browse at pictures of other children in masks if you haven’t seen many people wearing them in your area
- Let your child pick their favorite mask color, design, and style
- Practice wearing cloth face mask at home, such as while playing pretend doctor and nurse. My son loves wearing his mask and pretending he’s a ninja or superhero!
- Consider making this part of the regular daily routine when going out to the park and put a reminder sign next to the door
- Keep extra masks in your purse or backpack
What if my child complains about his or her mask?
My 3-year-old and 6-year-old kids understand the importance of wearing masks. However, on a few occasions, they have complained and whined about their masks.
First, I ask about their concerns. Is the mask uncomfortable and too tight? Are they scared about something? Or are they simply not wanting to wear it, kind of like how sometimes kids don’t want to wear socks or shoes?
If comfort is an issue, I recommend trying different masks, finding the best personal fit, and practicing at home.
On the other hand, if the issue is not physical or emotional, I remind my kids that going outside is a privilege. If they want to walk in areas where we might get close to people, they need to wear a mask to out of respect to others. Otherwise, we have to go back home.
By setting this firm rule, my kids no longer argue and have just gotten used to their masks.
Advice for parents who are worried or upset about masks
Some of you might feel angry, sad, and/or anxious about how the world has changed and how different people look while wearing masks in public. Your feelings are valid and understandable.
At the time of this article, almost 130,000 people and counting have died from Covid-19 in the United States, while almost half a million have died worldwide. The pandemic isn’t going to end without everyone committing to lifestyle changes to minimize spread.
If possible, please vent about your concerns privately with your spouse or friends. Pray and seek help from a mental health professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need non-judgemental advice. Psychology Today also has helpful tips about combating mask anxiety. But our children need us to be as positive as we can about this difficult situation.
Kids take their cues from their parents and can become anxious or confident depending on what is modeled to them.
They are resilient and often adapt to new changes faster than adults. Furthermore, perceived problems for adults might not even bother children.
Remember to tell your children how proud of them for keeping their community safe.
As with anything in life, there’s a learning curve, and I hope the mask-wearing tips in this post can help.
Masks are for heroes!
Other helpful health resources for kids in Chinese
- Doudou, Wash Your Hands 豆豆，去把手洗干净——掌握正确的洗手方法，养成洗手好习惯！(CHALK Academy)
- Chinese Magic School Bus Science Books (CHALK Academy)