Explaining face masks to kids

Although they are not mandatory for children aged younger than 12 years in Victoria, many families are keen for their children to wear face masks to protect them from COVID-19. Getting them to do so, however, can be a challenge, as can helping children adjust to seeing others (including their parents and carers) wearing masks when out in public. Here are a few tips to explain to kids why this is happening, and to help them get used to the idea of wearing one themselves (please keep in mind that it is inappropriate and dangerous to put a mask on a child aged 2 years or younger): 

  • Explain to your child in a developmentally appropriate way why we wear face masks- they stop germs from spreading. Try and relate this to previous discussions you may have had, such as about hand washing and social distancing. 
  • Younger kids may appreciate discussions around different ‘superheroes’ who wear masks, and that we too can be ‘superheroes’ and help keep other people safe. Some children will enjoy being given the ‘job’ of reminding other family members to put on their masks when leaving the house. 
  • Younger kids may enjoy practicing wearing face masks at home, putting them on their toys, taking ‘selfies’ and looking at themselves in the mirror. All these things help to normalise them for kids. 
  • For older children, you can talk more about this being an act of sacrifice for the greater good, and the importance of working together as a community. 
  • Letting children have some say regarding the colour or pattern of their mask (whether these be purchased or made at home) will likely make them feel as though they have some autonomy, and hence will increase the likelihood of compliance. 

Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. She is also a certified SOS-feeding therapist.

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