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Helping kids get used to masks during the COVID-19 crisis

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The current COVID climate isn’t just hard on adults. For kids who are often kept in the dark about hard-to-explain or troubling subjects, it’s even more difficult to figure out what’s going on. How do you express to a child what safety is when you’re not even ready to talk about how dangerous things have gotten? If you’re struggling to talk to a child in your life about safer COVID-19 practices, here are some tips that may help.

Be Honest

Anyone who has kids or has interacted with kids knows that there’s really no fooling them. Even if they can’t understand the complexity of COVID-19, they know the world is changing, and they’re every bit as confused and scared as we are. That’s why it’s important to inform yourself about the disease and try and pass that knowledge on to your kids. Using simple language like “we can’t go to the park, because people are sick and we don’t want to get sick,” could help illustrate the importance of staying indoors without going too deep into the realities of COVID. As long as you don’t try to sugar-coat it, you’ll be fine, and your child will appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time to sit down and actually talk about it.

Use Concepts They Already Understand

Everybody knows what a bummer it is to get sick. Kids know it better than anyone. When they have to stay home from a party, a friend date, or even an exciting day at school, it’s hard for them. But discussing COVID-19 is a lot more complex than that. Every parent has their own sense of what’s appropriate for their child. If you sense that your child just isn’t ready for conversations about death and dying, there’s no need to go there. Talk about COVID in the context of getting sick and make sure you emphasize how important it is to stay healthy and wear PPE during this time.

Make It an Adventure

It’s a hard task for a parent to make something that seems so scary and uncertain feel like a fun adventure, and no one is asking you to go full Patch Adams and pretend that everything hunky-dory. It’s absolutely not, and your kids should be aware of that. That said, there are plenty of ways to make fighting COVID a fun team effort. Let your child pick out their mask and decorate it. Try making colorful masks to mail out together, and talk about mask etiquette as much as you can. Talk to your kid about going to public places like the supermarket and let them know the plan. If you can make it a game (i.e. “let’s play ‘don’t touch anything’”) and create a reward system around mask-wearing, even better.

Let Them Ask Questions

Kids are naturally curious. They want to know about everything, from how we got here to where we go after we die. These are insanely hard questions to answer as a parent, even if you know your child is, on some level, ready to hear about the realities of life. The best you can do to let your child know they’re being heard and considered is to open yourself up to questions. Kids are going to have a lot of questions about COVID, and you won’t be able to answer all of them, but as long as you’re honest and doing your best to let your child know that you are an open resource, they won’t feel so in the dark about it all.

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