TEACHING CHILDREN TO BE SAFE
As we all live through this pandemic of Covid-19, we need to be wise about our continuing need to protect ourselves and our children from exposure. We can do this by simply following the CDC Protection Guidelines when away from home:
- Wear a mask
- Physically distance yourself 6 feet away from those you do not live with
- Wash your hands frequently
However, gaining the cooperation of our children to do those 3 protective steps may be difficult, especially wearing a mask. To gain a child’s compliance, the child will need to be taught these behaviors with continuing reinforcement until they become habit.
Here are some suggestions for teaching children to wear a mask:
- Whenever your children leave the house, have them wear a mask. At first they may resist keeping it on because they are not accustomed to wearing it and their sense of touch will alert them to the mask being on their face. However, if consistently worn, they will become desensitized and will adjust to wearing it just like they did to wearing a hat
- Role model wearing a mask and following all other recommended safety guidelines
- Try not to call attention to the fact your children are wearing masks. The object is for them to not notice the mask
- Use distraction to help your children not to think about the mask
- If they remove the mask, gently and positively put it back on them and then distract their attention on to something fun or interesting. Do not use a bribe in the moment because your children will then learn to take off their masks to receive a bribe.
- Speak only positively about wearing a mask even though you would prefer not to wear one
- At the end of each day, give a little prize, special treat, or do a fun activity with your children as positive reinforcement for wearing their masks even if it was difficult for them to keep it on
- Be consistent and recognize that wearing a mask does not feel natural and will take a month for the habit to form.
Wearing masks, washing hands, and physically distancing will be with us for the months ahead and will play an important role in controlling this crisis and returning us to work and our children to school and child care. Until there is a proven vaccine, what other options do we have? Our job as parents is to teach our children how to survive. They will then have the opportunity to live a happy and productive life!