ATLANTA — ATLANTA – The return to school means some children will be asked to wear face coverings as they move from class to class, something a lot of youngsters will find difficult.
The Centers for Disease Control is providing guidance for schools when it comes to students and masks, acknowledging that it will be a challenge for many youngsters.
For some, it’s not just a matter of discomfort.
“A lot of children are afraid of masks,” says Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, a metro Atlanta pediatrician.
Adults can find masks uncomfortable but are able to understand the need in the COVID-19 era.
Dr. Dolgoff says children can’t make that leap.
“Children can’t cognitively understand the importance of wearing the mask,” says Dr. Dolgoff. “It doesn’t feel good, it’s uncomfortable, they can’t breathe, and that’s all they know. They don’t like it and they want it off.”
Children rely on a smile or a familiar face to feel safe. When they see adults with masks that cover facial features, children can grow uneasy.
“They act scared of them, but there are things we can do as parents to help them get over this fear,” says Dr. Dolgoff.
For example, stand in front of a mirror as you and your child wear masks together.
“You can put a mask on your child’s favorite stuffed animal or draw a mask on your child’s favorite storybook character,” suggests Dolgoff.
Introduce the mask slowly.
“Practice, practice, practice with your child,” says Dr. Dolgoff. “Sit with them in a mask a few minutes. The next day, sit a few minutes longer.”
Dr. Dolgoff says some children will take to them right away while others need more time to understand we live in a time when masks are not just for Halloween.