BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Parents, if and when you send your kid back to school this fall, we know you must be trying to figure out how will you get them to wear a mask all day.
Dr. Eliana Pizarro, Director of the Applied Behavior Analysis Service at the Pediatric Development & Therapy Center for Our Lady of Lake, says parents should initiate the conversation about wearing a mask sooner rather than later. Dr. Pizarro says let the child take over, encourage them to ask questions.
Experts suggest using simple, direct language to explain why wearing a mask is required.
“You can say something so simple as germs spread from our bodies whenever we cough, sneeze or even breathe too close to someone else. So we wear the mask not only to protect our noses and our mouths but to protect those germs from spreading to people around us,” Dr. Pizarro says.
There are lots of strategies to get kids comfortable with wearing a mask, Dr. Pizarro explains. Depending on the child’s age, allow the kids to pick a mask or make their own.
“Incorporate our child’s favorite character, favorite colors - let them pick out their favorite designs. Even beyond that, maybe you are not particularly crafty, there are a ton that you can choose from and buy at a reasonable price online.”
After getting a mask, have the child engage with it to develop comfortability.
“So what you do not want is for it to come to some power struggle. You do not want it to come into a demand of, ‘You need to wear this mask,’ and have it be sort of a fight,” Dr. Pizarro says.
Associating the mask with people or careers that typically wear masks allows the child to role-play.
“Introduce it as a plaything,” experts say.
The biggest piece of advice Dr. Pizarro says she can offer: do not avoid the conversation, start today.
“You do not want to wait until the night before school starts to first introduce your child to the mask and expect that they’re going to be able to wear it for 7 consecutive hours. It’s not going to happen.”
Dr. Pizarro suggests having the child wear the mask for a few minutes, then gradually increase the time. She says each step should be celebrated, " Every step is a great achievement. Don’t wait until they wear it for hours to celebrate.”
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