While children are used to seeing their favorite superheroes and villains on television wear masks, most have been home throughout the pandemic and haven’t seen how quickly the world has changed. Masks are required to be worn in stores, restaurants, doctor’s offices and hospitals, and sometimes adjusting to this new normal can be scary for young children.
Lauren Grodin, PsyD, a psychologist at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, recognizes that going to a doctor’s office or hospital can already be anxiety provoking for kids. Add in having to wear a mask and stress levels can rise.
A smiling face helps to provide reassurance to kids, and when they can’t see who is beneath the mask, and are required to wear a mask themselves, it can be scary and uncomfortable for young kids. We need to help children understand why it’s important to be safe, accept this new requirement, learn to cope with it, and feel comfortable.
But how can parents do that, especially when a child is younger or really not feeling well?
Here are a few tips to help kids become comfortable wearing a mask, especially when they have sensory issues and just don’t like how it feels.
- Normalize what it’s like to wear a mask.
- Model the mask. If a parent wears the mask then the child will want to mirror them.
- Decorate the mask. You can have your child draw a face on a surgical mask or pick their favorite fabric and make their own. It’s important for children to feel ownership of their mask.
- Make a mask for a favorite toy. Don’t forget to put a mask on your child’s favorite doll or stuffed toy. If their trusted friend can wear a mask, so can they.
- Play in the mask. Before an outing or doctor’s appointment, have your child wear the mask in the house to practice and understand how it feels and looks. Let them see how they look in the mirror with and without it on.
While we don’t know how long we will be dealing with this pandemic, we do know it’s important to protect ourselves and our littlest citizens. So working with your child before their first outing will go a long way with helping them get used to living in the COVID-19 era.
If your child has an upcoming appointment at Joe DiMaggio Children’s hospital, here’s what to expect at your next visit.