Students at school will look a little different this year.
As in-person instruction starts up in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts have included masks in their back-to-school safety plans.
The CDC continues to recommend wearing masks in social situations to help protect both the mask wearer and the people around them from harmful virus transmission.
However, children might find it uncomfortable to wear face coverings through the day.
To prepare your kids for the possibility of mask wearing when school begins, experts agree it's important that guardians keep conversations positive and truthful.
"Be honest about why we have to wear face masks (to keep other safe and to keep ourselves safe from sickness) but don’t be scary. Let your children know that while wearing face masks may be uncomfortable, we can get used to the feeling," according to Franciscan Health.
Practice makes perfect in convincing your child to wear a mask. If you haven't already, slowly get them used to face coverings.
Franciscan Health recommends these strategies to help your child adjust:
- Setting a timer
- Wearing a mask for the length of a favorite song
- Wearing a mask on a drive until you see the next blue car and then take a break until another blue car
- Playing dress up as a doctor or dentist or your kid’s favorite superhero
One of the biggest challenges with convincing children to wear cloth face coverings relates to them “feeling different" or stereotyping them as being sick, according to healthychildren.org. As more people wear these cloth face coverings, children will get used to them and not feel singled out or strange about wearing them.
Cloth masks may be the best option for student face coverings, according to Dr. Melissa Hawkins, an epidemiologist, mom of four and Director of the Public Health Scholars Program in the Department of Health Studies at American University.
"For a school setting, I recommend cotton masks with elastic ties because they are highly effective, comfortable and washable," Dr. Hawkins said.
Making sure your child's mask fits correctly and comfortably will also help prevent them from fidgeting with it.
A cloth face covering should fit over your child's nose and mouth and be secured under their chin. Avoid any gaps on the sides by adjusting the mask's fit so it is snug. Always check that your child can breathe easily when wearing the mask.
It's also recommended that children are included in picking the style and pattern of their masks. Your children can also decorate their own with stickers or fabric markers.
In many cases, children will take to wearing face coverings on their own.
"Kids are quite resilient and adaptable," says Lauren Faubel, Certified Child Life Specialist at Children's Health. "While every child is different, a lot of the time, kids may have an easier time adjusting to wearing a face mask than adults do. They tend to get distracted and may not even notice their mask after a while, especially in a situation where wearing a mask is normalized."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children under 2 years do not wear a face covering, or anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove their mask without assistance.
Any person younger than 10 years of age is also excluded from Gov. Abbott's statewide mask mandate.