TAMPA, Fla. -- With many school districts across the United States now requiring both staff and students to wear face masks for in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are wondering how they are going to get their child to keep a face mask on all day.
However, teachers, parents, and family therapists say there are four steps you can take today to help make that transition easier.
1: Start mask-wearing now
It's critical that you start exposing your child to wearing a face-covering now, according to Crystal Clark, a family therapist based in Tampa.
"The teachers have a whole lot of other things to worry about and a mask is not what they want to worry about with your child," Clark said.
The time your child spends in a mask can start small, including shorter periods of time around the house or outings to places like the doctor's office.
2: Wear your mask around your kids
Nicole Holman, a Hillsborough County teacher and parent of two young children, was an early adopter of mask-wearing as the pandemic hit. Everyone in her family wears a face covering, and she even bought fabric to create matching masks with her daughter, Evelina.
Clark agrees that parents and family members wearing masks help normalize this for kids. This also includes how to properly take on and off your face mask and cleaning it.
"You have to make it fun and you also have to be a role model," she said.
3: Find a mask your child wants to wear
Clark said it's important your child is excited to wear their face mask. That may mean finding some fun patterns and colors or letting them pick out what mask they want to wear for the day.
Allowing kids to draw on or decorate disposable face masks is another fun option, Clark said.
It's also critical that your child's face mask fits properly, is breathable, and is not itchy or uncomfortable. It's unlikely your child will continue to wear it if it doesn't feel okay on their face, Clark said. This is especially true for younger children.
4: Talk to your kids
Holman said it was extremely helpful for her to explain to her kids the reason mask-wearing is so important right now, especially in Florida and other states where COVID-19 cases are surging.
"I just teach them and say, 'Hey, masks are safe for you, but they are also safe for everyone else,'" she said.