At first, it was mostly doctors, nurses, and others in health care settings who
wore masks. But now, as other people wear
them, more and more kids are seeing something they're not used to seeing. For
them, it can be strange or a little scary, especially if they need to put on masks
Most kids can feel comfortable seeing people in masks, as long as adults:
Use simple words to explain why people are wearing masks.
Give kids time to look, watch, and get used to what's new.
Answer kids' questions.
Some toddlers and young children may feel uneasy about masks. They may need extra
support and comfort from parents. Parents also can help kids understand why they might
need to wear a mask, and make them more comfortable and even fun to wear. Kids
under 2 years old should not wear a mask.
How Do Kids React to Masks?
How kids react to seeing masks partly depends on their age. Older kids might not
react much at all. To them, masks might seem like no big deal. Most are able to adjust
Some kids may even be eager to wear
a mask. They might embrace their new look as a medical superhero.
But for babies, toddlers, and young kids, seeing people in masks might take some
getting used to. At first, they may feel cautious. They may need a few minutes to
look and watch. That can help them get used to what's new. They may need a parent
to gently say, "It's OK." That can help them relax.
Some babies, toddlers, and young kids may feel upset or afraid. They might cry,
hide their face, or cling to a parent. Soothing words, comfort, and the safety of
a parent's lap can help calm
Why Do Some Young Kids Feel Scared of Masks?
Masks hide part of a person's face. Young children rely on faces. From the time
they are babies, young children look at faces for the signals they need to feel safe.
When faces are partly hidden by masks, kids can't see the friendly smile or familiar
look that usually puts them at ease. When kids can't see the person's whole face,
it's harder to feel safe. It's natural to feel scared.
But slowly and gently, parents can help kids feel more comfortable. Even very young
kids can learn that something that seemed too scary at first is not so scary after
How Can Parents Help Kids Wear a Mask?
Masks or cloth face coverings on adults and kids over 2 years old
can help slow the spread of the virus. Here are some ways to help kids wear masks
when you go out:
Help kids get used to masks. As much as you can, give kids time
to practice wearing their masks before they might need to wear one outside of your
home. Teach them how to put them on and take them off.
Encourage kids to decorate their mask. This might help them feel
a sense of ownership and control over the situation. A personal touch can help make
it more of a normal part of their routine, and make it more likely they'll want to
wear their mask. Depending on the type of mask, kids can draw on it with markers or
put stickers on it.
Make them together. If you make masks or cloth face coverings
at home, let older kids help you. There are no-sew masks that are easy to make, often
with materials you probably already have (T-shirts, bandannas, etc.). If you sew masks,
maybe kids can select the fabric or patterns for the masks they'll wear.
Help make it fun. With younger kids, introduce a sense of play.
Kids can pretend to be a doctor or nurse while wearing their masks. They might want
to use a doctor kit and "take care" of a stuffed animal or doll.
Have a few masks handy while kids play. This lets them use their
imagination about how to use them during playtime. It also helps make masks a more
normal part of their everyday world. You can ask your child to put a mask on a stuffed
animal, and then ask follow-up questions about why the stuffed animal is wearing the
mask. Depending on your child's response, you can clear up any confusion and offer
How Can I Help My Child During Medical Visits?
For older kids:
Tell kids what to expect and why. Mention masking before the
visit, if you can. For kids old enough to understand, you might say, "I think we'll
see doctors and nurses wearing their masks today. It's a new thing they're doing to
stop germs." Explain it in a way
that seems matter of fact and calm.
If you will wear masks, tell your child,
"We might get to wear masks too. We want to stop germs too, right?" Knowing what to
expect helps kids of all ages feel prepared and more at ease.
Explain the upside. Be honest, but focus on the good that masks
can do, rather than the bad things a virus can do. For example, you might say, "Because
of the coronavirus that's going around, everyone is doing extra things to stop its
germs from spreading. Wearing masks is one of the ways we can stop the virus."
Let kids show what they know. Invite school-age kids to tell
you the other things you already do as a family to stop germs. For example, prompt
kids to say or show how they wash
their hands. Give them a word of praise to help them feel proud and capable.
Accept how they react. Know that it's normal for young kids to
react with caution to things they don't expect, understand, or feel familiar with.
Let them take their time to warm up to what's new.
Comfort them. Kids will look to you to soothe and support them.
Let them sit on your lap. Tell them, "You're OK, I'm here." When you help them feel
safe, they can start to adjust to what's different or new. They can start to feel
less cautious and more curious.
Be playful and show love. If the moment seems right, find a way
to be playful with your child. While you're still at the medical visit, is there a
way to help your child laugh, smile, or giggle? Laughing is relaxing. And a few sweet
moments help balance out the stressful ones.
After the visit:
If your child seemed upset, worried, or stressed during the visit, doing these
things can help:
Talk about it. After the visit, it can help to talk with your
child. You might say, "Everybody looked different today wearing those masks, didn't
they?" Then listen. Let your child tell you what it was like for them. Find ways to
praise your child. "It wasn't easy. You did great. I'm proud of you." Call out a bright
spot. "I'm glad we got to wave to the nurse who took care of you last time. I think
it made him feel happy too."
Invite your child to draw or play about it. Together, you could
draw pictures of people wearing masks and not wearing masks. Or make a play mask and
let a doll or stuffed animal try it on.
Play and drawing can help kids
work out what they saw and felt. They are a way to rehash and rehearse. And that helps
kids feel a little more prepared for next time.