Talking To Kids Who Don't Want To Wear A Face Mask

Alice Carlill
Dec 12, 2023 By Alice Carlill
Originally Published on Jul 21, 2020
woman putting a fun COVID face mask onto her child
Age: 0-99
Read time: 4.0 Min

As of Friday 24 July, face coverings are mandatory in stores and shops in England for all adults and children over the age of 11.

Kids under 11, or those with a physical or mental impairment or disability that means they can neither wear nor put on a face mask, will be exempt from this rule. Those who flout the rules could be fined £100.

Wearing a face mask every day is a new reality for many of us, including kids. Even those under 11 must get used to their parents sporting this strange new look. But how to talk to older kids who are reluctant to wear masks?

No Shame

Meet the child on their level, no matter how old they are. It's all about trying to understand why they're resistant, being attuned to their concerns, and breaking them down together.

Acknowledging what your child dislikes about wearing a mask ensures you form a connection, rather than alienating them. This makes it more likely that you'll be able to move past these barriers together.

Ask Questions, Build Trust

Ask your child why they're not keen on wearing a face mask. Instead of telling them what to do (or not do), it's best to explore why they are unwilling to wear the mask in the first instance.

Focussing the conversation on their concerns demonstrates that you care about their distress, and are keen to work together to find ways around their discomfort.

Maybe they find the loops irritating on the back of their ears, or maybe they feel that it makes breathing more difficult, or steams up their glasses. All of these are valid complaints.

It's important to acknowledge them in a non-judgemental way if that's how your child feels, so that you can move on and find solutions to the problem.

Practical tip: There is a way of making mask-wearing more comfortable for your child, and you can even get crafty in the process.

Making your own mask is a great way of ensuring that your kid's mask fits the contours of their face (rather than a one-size-fits-all); you can adjust the ear loops to suit, and ensure that the fabric feels as breathable as possible for them. Plus, they'll be able to personalise it as much as they like!

Follow our guide here -- all you need are hair bands and some cotton fabric.

Re-Learning Behaviours

Much as we might want to believe otherwise, we are all creatures of habit, and learned behaviours can be very difficult to break. It's been a period of significant upheaval for everyone.

We've all had to adapt accordingly, following new procedures and practice around social distancing, washing hands more often, forming support bubbles, and all the other aspects of the new normal in which we find ourselves.

Wearing a mask is no different. It may not yet be second nature to bring and wear a face mask to stores and shops. Just remembering to do so may be an issue at first. So acknowledge that!

It's no good getting annoyed with yourself or your child for forgetting a mask. We're living through a new cultural moment. Hiccups along the way are inevitable.

Practical tip: Consider popping a post-it note by the front door, asking if everyone's remembered their face masks.

pile of colourful COVID face masks

Image: UnSplash

Reframing Concerns

Current understanding of coronavirus suggests that children are less likely to either contract or get seriously ill from the virus than adults. You may be wondering in consequence why kids (over the age of 11) need to wear them, given their relatively low risk of infection.

Well, whilst it's very important for individuals to protect their own health and safety by wearing a face mask, it's just as much about protecting the health and safety of others.

Remind kids that wearing a face mask means they are helping to prevent passing the virus on to their sibling or grandparent -- or even on to yourself. Wearing a mask works in tandem with hand-washing, social distancing, and all of the other post-lockdown preventative measures.

Talk through this, and help them to understand how the virus moves through the population and how that can be slowed.

Practical tip: Involve your kids in all aspects of your family's ongoing safety plan. Maybe they can make masks for all family members.

Perhaps they could build a rota for the weekly shopping trip. This ensures they are proactively engaged in keeping their family as safe as possible, and will hopefully help them reframe wearing face coverings as part of that process.

Remember, face masks and coverings are an important tool for minimising coronavirus transmission, but are most effective when used in combination with social distancing, hand hygiene, and all other preventative strategies. Defer to the goverment's guidance on this should you have any concerns or questions.

Header Image: Pexels

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Written by Alice Carlill

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Alice Carlill picture

Alice CarlillBachelor of Arts specializing in English

With a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Cambridge, Alice is passionate about all things art, literature, and culture. She has written a short collection of poems and continues to edit scripts for theater, TV, and film. Alice grew up in London and now resides there, but her favorite places are by the sea or somewhere cozy with her five dogs. She also has two younger sisters who keep her on her toes.

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