9 Tips to Help Get Your Kid to Wear a Face Mask

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Photo: Annie Tlusty

With the freedom of outdoor summer fun waning and the school year quickly approaching, are you lying awake at night wondering what school might look like for your family? Will you be trapped at home with distance learning? Or will your kids be going back to school? When you hear that kids, as young as 3, will be required to wear face masks at their school and daycare this year, do you think “Masks? I can’t even get my kid to wear shoes!”?

You aren’t alone. Just take a breath, because you’ve got this. As a parent, this is the kind of challenge you deal with all the time. And we know it’s essential if we want to keep safe, stop the spread of the virus, and have things get back to something approaching normal and as a parent, you know there is always something you need your kid to do that they don’t want to do. It’s part of your job keeping your child safe and healthy.

The advice we read on the parenting blogs, hear from our pediatricians, and our mom friends is always the same…be creative. Invite them to take ownership. And don’t turn it into a power struggle. Like with vegetables, we’re told to engage them in gardening or food preparation and they will enthusiastically eat what they grow or make. When you bring them into the process and give them ownership of the process, they happily embrace it. You can use this same theory to get them to wear a mask. I have seen it work with my own child and others!

Here are some ideas to try if your kids are struggling with wearing a mask:

1. Explain: Use non-threatening and age-appropriate language to tell your child why they need to wear a mask. For example, tell her that when we cough, sneeze, or even breathe too close to someone else, our germs can travel from our body to someone else. Even if our own germs don’t make us sick, they can make someone else sick. We don’t want to spread our germs to our friends, neighbors or teachers. Masks help keep those germs from spreading.

2. Make It Fun: Allow your child to choose from a selection of colorful and kid-friendly masks. Kids are more likely to wear something they find fun or appealing. And if they pick it out themselves, they will have a sense of ownership and independence. Put a mask on a favorite doll or stuffed animal. Draw one on their favorite book character. Point out that superheroes wear masks. Maybe they want to wear a cape with their mask!

3. Engage: Involve them in the process: If you are crafty, help them sew or make their own mask. There are many tutorials for simple masks online.

4. Decorate: Give them a simple blank mask that they can decorate with fabric markers. They can even make or decorate masks for the whole family to wear, building a sense of “team spirit.”

5. Empathize: No one actually likes wearing a mask. You can say, “It’s frustrating that we have to wear masks,” or “I’m sad too that we have to do this.” Show your child pictures of other children or superheroes wearing masks. And of course, make sure they know we are all in this together by wearing your own mask.

6. Rules: Let them know that wearing a face mask is a rule right now. Explain that we often have rules in place to keep each other safe. Like looking both ways before you cross the street. You can show them the signs at the entrance to most buildings or businesses.

7. Togetherness: We really are all in this together. If your family finds this challenging, you can be sure you are not alone. When your child gets to school and sees the other kids wearing masks, they will be more likely to go along.

8. Change It Up: What works one day with your child, may not work the next. Be creative, try different things. And by all means, reward your child with lots of hugs and togetherness. Wearing a mask can make a person feel disconnected. Reward them with quiet time together coloring or reading.

9. Don’t Stress: We are all at least a little overwhelmed right now, which is not the best recipe for good parenting. Just make sure to take a little time for yourself to destress every day. Our kids are more likely to listen when we are patient and calm.

If you have your own ideas or stories from the trenches, please share them with us or tag #BringItMasks on Facebook or Instagram.