While face masks have become the new norm for adults, the experience of children adjusting to face masks has been more of a challenge. As children return to the school, the challenge is escalating with many experts and parents seeking new creative ways to make the wearing of masks more sustainable for children and young people.
Leading by example
Parents are getting creative, tying masks behind teddy bear ears, introducing masked superheroes to their children, and trying to seamlessly blend indoor mask-wearing into the daily household routine.
Emma Beesley, a Chartered Business Psychologist and a mother of five kids all under 10 years old, broached the subject with her children by comparing the facemasks to sunscreen. “I have had all the what, why, how Questions and have had to provide responses that make sense to the children and create the right outcome,” Emma’s Warrel said. “I have compared the mask to sunscreen, in that the sunscreen keeps us safe from the sun, and masks keep us and others safe from any bad germs” Emma added. Emma emphasized that being a role model will help children embrace the idea of wearing facemasks “there is never a time when children are not watching your every move!”, she said, “if I wear my mask, they are more likely to follow my lead”.
Uncomfortable masks increase the chance of infection
“Encouraging children to wear the mask is the first step however, ensuring they keep the mask on their face is the real challenge. If the mask feels uncomfortable, children would be unlikely to keep it on. They would naturally frequently touch their face to make adjustments which could increase the risk of infection.”
To address this issue, Viromasks has developed masks that are coated with HeiQ Viroblock which is proven to neutralize viruses including SARS-COV-2 within 30 minutes. To help ensure a comfortable fit, Viromasks has a unique patent-pending design that ensures the air breathed in gets filtered to protect both the wearer and those around them.”
It’s Superheroes to the Rescue
An animated series has been introduced by UAE company Viromasks to help encourage children to adopt healthy mask practices. Commenting on the innovative campaign to encourage children to wear the masks, Usman Khalid explained: “Since the start of COVID-19, life has changed dramatically for citizens across the globe, so we thought it was important to create superhero role models to help get our children accustomed to this new way of life.” While wearing the Viromask product provides all-round protection to the wearer, Usman Khalid was quick to point out that children should wear masks only if they are capable of removing them without assistance, to ensure there is no risk of suffocation.
The Viromasks animated series introduces the idea of the mask-wearing superheroes – Kara, the young female heroine who quickly becomes the Germinator after putting on her virus-busting mask; and victorious Victor, who becomes the Defender when he uses his mask to protect himself and others from virus attack.
Focus on their feeling
It is widely accepted by experts that the best way to get your child used to masks is to practice – in lots of fun ways to engage and retain their interest. Dr Diksha Laungani, Educational Psychologist said: “Be mindful of your child’s age when you attempt different ways to encourage your child(ren) to wear masks. What works for your younger child, may not work for your older one, or vice-versa. Dr. Laungani emphasized the importance to engage in open and honest discussions with the child, “you can ask them what they know about it: why do we have to wear them, how to do so and more. There could be a fair bit of imagination or misinformation at hand! Give them the facts about masks – as a parent, your child must trust you as an impartial source of information about everything COVID-19 related”.
Building wider connections
The psychology of motivation shows us that for children to be independently motivated to wear masks, they need to feel in control and involved with the process and experience. Dr. Laungani recommends giving your child choices wherever possible, she said: “Give them the freedom to choose the color, for instance. Speak to them about their favorite family member or characters wearing masks. This will normalize the process and enhance their sense of relatedness with wearing masks. You could even entrust them with a sense of social responsibility by explaining that wearing a mask would proudly make them a ‘helper of the community’, a ‘masked superhero’ and that is a VERY important job.”
While it is important to remind kids not to play or tamper with their own facemasks, you could just roleplay to increase the familiarity and positive association with wearing masks. Design an activity where you and your child create miniature masks for your child’s favorite toy characters at home, for instance, dolls, teddies, robots, etc. As with any self-care tasks, encourage your child to practice putting their mask on and taking it off safely. Using a mirror or teddy bear to demonstrate would visually help. Or, use it as an opportunity to get out your child’s favorite superhero costume to practice wearing a mask! Instill a sense of empowerment, positive association, and responsibility and your child will feel much more motivated to wear their mask.