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Kids and masks? ETCH offers tips to help little ones stay safe

(WVLT)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 2:01 PM EDT
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Children 2 years and older should wear a cloth face mask when in public settings that make social distancing difficult, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you're a parent, you know how difficult it can be to coax a child to wear a hat, let alone a face mask.

Experts from East Tennessee Children's Hospital offered several tips to help kids feel more comfortable with face coverings.

Child Life Specialist Anna Taylor told WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara that it's normal for kids to be unsure, nervous or scared about putting on a mask, "So I think it's important for parents to be wearing masks themselves so they see that it's safe and it's okay."

Taylor recommended making time to allow your child to feel and play with the mask before they're asked to wear it, "If you have time beforehand to be able to get them a little bit more comfortable, instead of last minute, 'okay you have to wear it'."

She also suggested using play to coax them into the idea, "If they have an extra mask, use a stuffed animal or baby doll that they can put a mask on that too, to kind of have some fun with them wearing a mask and do it a little bit pretend play for the younger kids."

Smell can play a role in whether your child is comfortable wearing a mask. "Rub a little scented chapstick on the inside of the mask, like a favorite scent of theirs maybe, so that when they put it on they smell like strawberries, or maybe some fruity scent or something like," Taylor suggested.

She also recommends preparing children to see other people wearing masks before going in public settings so that it's not shocking or unsettling.

Taylor has been helping kids get comfortable with masks long before the pandemic. Many hospital patients have conditions like cystic fibrosis that require masks for safety. She said there can come a time when a child simply refuses, and that's okay.

"You don't want them to get so upset, like crying, so sometimes you just have to say it is what it is. If some child is unable to, or doesn't want to, then it's important that the rest of us are wearing the masks and that we can kind of help protect each other in that way to go," said Taylor.

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