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How to help kids wear face masks

A little girl putting on a face mask.

Face masks help stop the spread of the coronavirus. But it's not just adults who should be wearing them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children 2 and older wear cloth face coverings in public, especially when social distancing isn't possible.

For parents, this may feel like yet another unpopular rule they have to enforce during a year when kids have already been forced to skip school and playdates.

If you're having trouble getting your child to mask up, keep reading for some expert parenting advice.

What to do if your child's reluctant to wear a mask

Kids might be wary of masks for a few different reasons. Wearing a face mask may frighten children into thinking they are sick. Or it might make them feel different from people not wearing masks. Children also depend on seeing a person's smiling face to know that they are safe. When so many people are wearing masks, they might feel scared.

For children who are reluctant to wear a face mask at first, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents:

  • Have their child look in the mirror while wearing a mask and talk about it.
  • Put a face mask on a favorite stuffed animal.
  • Let their child decorate their face mask with stickers.
  • Encourage their child to draw a mask on one of their favorite book characters.
  • Let their child practice wearing a face mask at home.

Keep your responses and advice age-appropriate

Your answers to children's questions about face masks can depend on their age. For young children, keep answers simple. Tell them that wearing their face mask helps keep people from getting sick.

For older children, focus on germs. Tell them some germs are good and some are bad. Bad ones can make people sick. The mask helps make sure you don't give any bad germs to other people when you cough, sneeze or talk.

Make sure your child's mask fits right

One of the keys for a face mask that's effective is making sure it fits. It should fit securely over the nose and mouth and stretch from ear to ear.

An adult-size mask may be too big for your child. You can buy child-size masks online, or make one yourself.

For more helpful parenting tips during the pandemic, visit the Coronavirus topic center.

Reviewed 11/4/2020

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