How to help your children feel more comfortable wearing a mask

DETROIT – Wearing masks in public is the new normal for all of us and it can take some getting used to.

For parents, it can be difficult to get their children to wear their mask.

Angela Kadro has been spending a lot of time playing outside with her three children -- two 10-year-olds and a 5-year-old. All three of them are comfortable wearing face masks, but that’s not the case for everyone.

“It’s important to be honest with children so that they know that this isn’t just like a normal time," said Dr. Donna Rockwell. "We are having to be more careful right now.”

Rockwell said parents need to explain it in an age-appropriate way.

“There’s a germ that’s going around and everybody has to be really careful. It’s not just here in the United States, but it’s actually in the whole world," Rockwell said. "So we’re doing a really cool thing now -- we’re going to wear masks so that no one gets sick.”

Major retailers have launched their own lines of reusable face masks for children with kid friendly designs like anchors, bananas and narwhals on them. Disney is doing the same with masks featuring all of the characters children love to make wearing a mask less frightening.

“It’s really important to normalize these masks and the situation we’re going through," Rockwell said. "Practical tips would be to practice wearing the mask in the house, so that when they go outside they’re familiar with this mask situation.”

You can also decorate masks together. Personalize it to make them their own.

Perfect Trading Co. on Maple Road in Bloomfield are making masks for children with their favorite designs they choose themselves, like rainbows and flowers or their favorite sport.

Rockwell said you can remove some of the fear of the mask by making the mask fun.

“Incorporate the masks into play, especially for toddlers, and children who are still involved in play. So yes, put the mask on the dog, make a mask for the doll, both the child and the dog can wear the mask together," Rockwell said. "You could do superhero fantasies with the child about, ‘oh, I’m putting my mask on, and now I’m going to go out into the world, and I’m going to help make sure everybody’s safe and healthy,' so that the child is actually educated and empowered at the same time.”

Experts said part of what makes masks scary for children is their loved ones aren’t always recognizable with part of their faces covered.

“A mask isn’t actually so scary after all isn’t when you see who’s behind the mask," Rockwell said. “Little kids, you can play like peekaboo because it is scary for them. They read all their cues for safety from our faces, so it’s important that we make them familiar with it in a comfortable playful way.”

Most importantly, remember if you're uncomfortable wearing a mask, your little one will pick up on that.

“Our children pick up cues from us. They are only feeling as safe as we feel safe. They are only feeling as relaxed as we feel relaxed. It’s imperative for them to pick up how we’re feeling so it behooves us as parents to work out our fears with our couple and talk it through,” Rockwell said. “But when we’re with our children, I think we need to put in an optimistic and forward thinking face on the whole situation.”

Rockwell said if your child still seems stressed about wearing a mask, have them draw pictures about their experiences -- that can often help children work out how they’re feeling.

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