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Face masks are important for slowing down the spread of COVID-19. Combined with other measures like social distancing and handwashing, wearing a face mask is an essential habit for protecting your family.

Kids can spread the virus as much as adults, even if they don’t have any symptoms. That is why it is so important that everybody, even children and people who don’t have symptoms, wears a mask or covering. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages 2 and older wear cloth face coverings when they are out in public, including in child care, at school and other group activities.

Children younger than 2 years old should not wear face coverings, though, because of suffication risk.

Since getting a child to wear a mask regularly can be challenging, the experts at Vecino’s Airline Children’s Clinic have put together some great tips to help kids feel more comfortable wearing and seeing other people wear masks.

Explain why wearing a mask is important to your child

You may have already talked to your child about the COVID-19 pandemic, answered their questions, and offered love and reassurance. Children are more nervous when they see that things are changing around them and they don’t know what’s going on. That’s why it’s important to sit down and have a conversation about masks and why everybody should wear them.

To help kids feel more comfortable with masks, try focusing on the positive things they can do instead of the bad or scary things that can happen when you don’t wear them.

For example, you can say, “Germs can travel from our bodies to another person’s body when we sneeze, cough, or breathe too close to someone else. Wearing a mask is like using a superhero shield that protects you from those germs.”

If you have an older kid or a teen who is upset with wearing a mask, validate their feelings and let them know that you understand their frustration. Also, show empathy by sharing what you don’t like about wearing a mask. Finally, ask them for ways to make wearing a mask more comfortable, like finding one that fits better or getting one with a design that they like.

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Let your child choose their own mask

There are few things more empowering for children than having the opportunity to make their own choices. Unfortunately, the choice of not wearing a mask or a face covering is off the table right now. However, a good way of making them feel better about wearing one is to let them pick their own mask or covering.

Whether you are making cloth masks at home or buying them, let your child pick the colors, patterns, or style. A personal touch, like their favorite movie or TV character, sports team logo, or favorite colors, can make them more likely to want to wear a mask.

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Practice wearing the mask at home with young children

It’s normal for young children to be afraid of wearing or seeing people wear face coverings. To help with this, try practicing wearing the mask at home for short periods. Encourage your child to put on their mask when you are at home, and wear yours too. Look in the mirror when you are putting on and taking  off your masks so that they can see both their face and yours with and without a mask.

Be a role model 

If you want your children to be more comfortable wearing facial coverings, you have to be a good role model. Show your kids that wearing a mask is the right thing to do by wearing one yourself. Also, remember to always wear your mask correctly, making sure it covers your mouth and nose completely, and wash your hands before and after putting it on and taking it off.