Face coverings have quickly become a normal part of our daily life. While other cultures are more accustomed to seeing people wearing masks, this is not the case for most Americans. As states begin to open back up they are asking people to wear a mask in public places to help flatten the COVID-19 curve. This requirement has proven difficult for some adults who deal with claustrophobia, but this is a big challenge for many kids, teens, and tweens.
With a requirement of all people over 2 years old to cover their faces, how can parents help their children manage mask anxiety? Here are five tips you can try.
#1: Thoroughly Explain Why You Need Masks
The first thing you can do, especially for older children is to explain the how and why of wearing a mask. If they are asked to wear a mask but don’t really understand why they might develop some misconceptions. Be open about why we are being asked to wear them and how we are all agreeing to protect one another by wearing them.
#2: Practice Wearing Them at Home
A good first step to getting comfortable with wearing a mask is to start wearing them for short periods of time at home. This will help them to develop a comfort level. This also gives you an opportunity to sidestep any pitfalls you might have. Say your child wears glasses and you find that wearing a mask fogs their glasses, practicing at home will give you a chance to either adjust their mask or use a different mask.
#3: Look at Pictures and Videos of People Wearing Face Coverings
One problem that many parents are experiencing is that children are fearful when they see others wearing a mask. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, people wearing masks in public was something that would elicit fear. Many young children see masks as something that people might wear when engaging in anti-social behavior.
This effort can help your child see that delivery driver with a mask as a helpful person as opposed to a dangerous person. By watching videos or looking at pictures you can talk through what it will be like when they are out in public with everyone wearing masks.
#4: Find a Mask Your Child Likes
There are many different kinds and styles of masks available right now. A very simple way to help overcome mask anxiety is to give your child options to choose from. If wearing their favorite character on their mask makes them more comfortable, it will make everyone’s life easier.
#5: Create a Plan For What to Do If They Feel Anxious
Even as adults, there might be moments when you are in public, wearing your mask and feel anxious. Create a plan of action for what you can do at that moment. Maybe practice a breathing exercise or a visualization so you have a tool to use when you have that moment of anxiety. Some families may want to develop a code word or hand gesture that your children can use when they feel their stress level rising.
Mask anxiety has become a new issue for many families. By having a strategy for how to deal with this new issue you can help prepare your children for what to expect in the face of this new normal.