So much has changed in countless ways since COVID-19, and people all over the world are having to get used to “the new normal.” Staying home whenever possible (including even working and schooling from home), social distancing and wearing masks are all recommendations for safety that are brand new and completely foreign. Wearing masks is now required or highly recommended in many cities and states to help reduce the spread of this virus. Understandably children of all ages may struggle with putting on a mask as part of their daily routine. Apex Leadership Co. offers parents and guardians the following tips to present mask-wearing to their kids.

Explain the “Why” — It’s hard enough for many adults to wrap their heads around all the changes caused by COVID-19, let alone kids! Parents and guardians should be empathic and compassionate when it comes to helping children understand why it’s important to wear a mask. Depending on age of the child, this explanation can vary widely. For example, a younger child might only need the information that wearing a mask will help keep them safe against new germs while older children may benefit from deeper conversations regarding the impacts of COVID-19 and how wearing masks not only keeps themselves safe but also others that are at higher risk. That in itself is a great learning lesson in the value of caring for others.

Teach Proper Mask-Wearing Techniques — Wearing a mask is only effective if worn correctly, so parents should help relay tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tips include washing hands before putting a mask on, putting it over mouth and nose, securing it under the chin and making sure it fits snugly against the sides of the face. Children should be able to breathe easily when wearing their mask properly. The CDC also recommends touching the mask as little as possible while wearing it, and washing or disinfecting hands with sanitizer after touching it. Young children can practice putting a mask on a favorite stuffed animal or doll; and for those that love memes (and animals), there are some pretty cute images out there that show dogs and cats demonstrating how to and how not to wear a mask.

All Masks are Not Created Equal — Masks today are practically as unique as each child! Companies have certainly come to the table making a variety of masks available to consumers. This is a plus when it comes to finding the right mask for any child. With varying materials, sizes, configurations (behind the ears, the head or neck for example), and adjustable elements for securing the mask, there should really be something for everyone. Guardians can help ensure a child feels comfortable wearing a mask and that they have the proper fit by trying a few different kinds until they find what works for that child. Just as important as the fit and feel, allowing a child to pick out a mask that they like (based on patterns, colors, a cute saying or even some bling) can make the process a little more fun and make it seem a little more normal. Parents can even encourage children to decorate their own cloth masks with fabric paint or markers, patches and other accents to create one-of-a-kind face coverings.

Take it One Day at a Time — Wearing a mask is a big change, and it may take children time to adjust not only to wearing one but also to the reasons why they need to wear one. Give it time and be available to discuss any questions or concerns a child may have about wearing a mask and the pandemic in general. It’s a scary and confusing time, and parents should have an open door of communication for their children to ask questions and air fears. Also, be sure to practice wearing it at home for short periods of time in the beginning and increase the amount of time a little bit each day to help them adjust.

Lead by Example — Children are sponges and they absorb information from their parents and guardians not solely by what they say but largely by what they do. Leading by example when it comes to wearing a mask, washing hands, keeping a social distance and overall respecting the new guidelines given by governmental and health organizations to curb the spread of the pandemic can speak volumes and help children literally “see” the importance of doing their part, too.

Apex Leadership Co. understands that COVID-19 has presented some unique challenges that few could have predicted. Some children may struggle with the concept of wearing a mask and it’s okay for them to voice those concerns. Parents can listen and be supportive of their children as they adjust to this “new normal.” And as children get used to all these new ways of life (that are hopefully temporary) — from online schooling to wearing a mask when out in public — parents can offer encouragement with every success, no matter how big or small.