As New York begins to move through the phases of reopening, one of the most challenging things for many parents is getting your child to wear a mask. Please remember, though, children under two should not wear masks as it can be detrimental to their health. But getting children older than two—especially those with special needs—to wear a mask can be daunting, to say the least. So what I’ve done is put together some quick tips that can help you get your children to not only wear a mask, but to keep it on.
- Use simple words to explain to your child why we wear masks. Answer children’s questions frankly and honestly.
- Make wearing a mask special
- Use fabrics that excite your children. If they are on a dinosaur kick, get them a dinosaur mask. If it’s superheroes, go with that. Check out my son’s Spiderman mask that he will now (after intense work and bribery) wear without a problem
- Put a mask on your child’s favorite stuffed animals too. Normalize it.
- Let your child decorate his/her own mask. They can color or use stickers to enhance a plain mask.
- Draw masks on your child’s favorite characters. This also helps normalize it for your child.
- Use praise and/or small rewards. No parent really wants to bribe their child, but let’s face it—sometimes it’s the only way to go. The moment it worked for my son was when I told him that he can only ride bikes (socially distanced, of course) with a neighbor if he wore a mask the whole time. Since then, no problems.
- Recognize that masks may frighten your child. Children rely heavily on people’s facial expressions, which masks disguise. It can be extremely unsettling for your child to see everyone wearing masks.