What’s with all the masks? How to help your child grow accustomed to a new masked world
Hi fishcove friends and family! I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the last few weeks of May! We’ve been stuck inside for a while, but you have probably noticed that when people do venture out, most wear masks or face covering when going into stores or when interacting with other people. Especially since New Orleans entered Phase 1, more businesses have reopened and require face masks in order to enter.
This may be new and startling for little ones. For younger children, a lot of emotional and social development is focused around identifying and reading faces in order to understand how others are feeling and reacting to them. Being able to read someone’s face is a skill that children begin to learn in their infancy, and isn’t completely mastered until they are much older, sometimes into their teens!
This New York Times article discusses the challenges of masks (albeit with halloween masks, this was written pre-COVID of course!) for young children.
So how do you talk to your child about all of this mask hubbub? I hope I can provide some helpful hints for you to make the mask experience smooth sailing.
Talk about what masks are, and why we have to wear them
We already have a post on our fishcove blog about how to talk to your child about COVID-19, something that may be tricky. Check out that post for some pointers on how to discuss the virus. As for masks, explain to your child that masks are another type of tool (just like bandaids, eye glasses, helmets, and pool floaties) that are meant to keep you safe. We wear them to create a barrier between us and the germs. Don’t forget, it is also to help keep others safe too!
You can tell them that it is a preventative measure, meaning that we are using them to protect ourselves and others from getting sick, rather than not wearing one and needing to go to the doctor when you do. If your child takes a vitamin (and they enjoy it!) you can compare it to that: something you take that keeps you healthy, strengthening your body and helping your immune system stay strong.
Help your child feel more comfortable wearing their mask
One great way to help your child feel more comfortable with wearing their mask is by letting them wear it around the house when they first get it. Let them know it isn’t something that is going to hurt them or cause pain. Let them try to put it on their stuffed animals, dolls, and other toys to help them normalize it.
It is best to have multiple masks for your child, so you can have an at home practice mask, and then a few other masks to use in public and then toss in the wash.
You can also have them make their own mask, or decorate the ones you got them together! They love to create their own art and show it off, so let them have some creative control!
How to deal with recognition issues
Children ages 3 and 4 are still working on facial recognition, as well as learning social emotional cues from others around them. Unfortunately, going out in public may make this difficult for them, since being able to see the cheeks, nose, and mouth is crucial in developing these skills. Do not fret! Just be sure to have lots of face-to-face interaction at home when possible. There are also games and activities that focus on identifying faces and feelings that you can look into if you are interested!
What to do in public?
Children are best at recognizing their family members, but what wearing masks in public can make this challenging and even a bit scary. When going out in public, talk with your child about what to do if you are separated. It may be a good idea to practice talking about what other distinctive features your child could recognize, like hair color, glasses, shoes, and clothes! Before leaving the house, go over what outfit you’re wearing with your child. Ask them what color your clothes are. This may help them feel safer in public when they may not be able to fully recognize your face when wearing a mask. Another tip would be to get/make matching masks, so they can spot you if needed!
I hope some of these tips are helpful for you! This website has more helpful information on this topic if you need it!
I love y’all lots! Hope to see you soon!