How to help kids adjust to wearing a face mask

How to help kids adjust to wearing a face mask

Getting your kids to listen to you can be tough, so getting them to agree to wear a mask could be even tougher. Boston 25 News spoke with several doctors about the best ways to get children to agree to keep their noses and mouths covered.

“Let them decorate them, let them play with them, let them get used to it,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, of Gold Direct Care in Marblehead. He says homemade masks may also be a good idea.

Dr. Mark Blumenthal, a pediatrician with Newton Wellesley Hospital, says modeling is also a good idea. “Make it like someone they want to emulate or copy, that’s really what’s going to be helpful," he said, pointing to parents and older siblings wearing masks.

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For younger children who always touch their faces or try to adjust the mask, doctors say it can be challenging.

“I think one important thing is to try to distract them. Give them something to do with their hands — a book or break down and give them your phone for a few minutes, said Dr. Jeremy Warhaftig, the chief of pediatrics at South Shore Medical Center.

Massachusetts’ mandatory mask order goes into effect Wednesday. All children ages 2 and older must wear a mask. Pediatricians recognize it might be difficult to get toddlers to keep their faces covered.

“If they are more handsy and younger, and it’s harder to keep that mask on, it may be more beneficial to stay home as much as possible and only take them out when needed,” suggested Gold.

Coronavirus, so far, has not been hitting children as hard as older adults, but doctors warn children could be asymptomatic and could spread the virus, making it important that children wear masks.

Doctors also think it’s unlikely that once the state’s stay-at-home order is eventually lifted that masks will go away. Warhaftig said he thinks wearing a mask will become so common that seeing others without one will become the exception.

If your child is scared or worried about keeping their face covered, doctors say being honest is the best approach.

“I always start with the understanding that kids know that something is going on," said Blumenthal, “and I think you want to answer as truthfully as you can in a developmentally appropriate way.” "You want to keep it simple, even to say something like, there are germs around that everyone is trying to protect themselves from and everyone’s wearing masks and we’re going to try this too.”

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