How to help your kids get used to wearing masks for school

SPOKANE, Wash. – Some of Spokane’s youngest learners will walk into classrooms for the first time next week. One thing they’re going to have to get used to: Wearing masks all day.

Several school districts in Eastern Washington are opening their doors for in-person learning next week. Students will have to wear masks all day to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Some students may struggle with having a piece of cloth on their face for hours, but there are ways parents can help prepare them for that.

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Dr. Brian Simmerman, with Providence Pediatrics, says it all starts with setting an example at home. He said parents should be wearing their own masks when appropriate.

Kids can also practice wearing masks for hours at home just to get used to it.

“Sometimes, even reward that. Allow them to do something fun while they’re still wearing the masks,” Simmerman says.

He suggests letting kids personalize their own masks or pick out their masks, too. Another good way to help kids get used to masks is to normalize it by letting them put it on their toys and stuffed animals.

Simmerman says at this point, masks should be part of their attire when heading out of the home.

“This is what we wear when we go do things, or this is what we do when we get in a car, we put on a seatbelt or we put on a mask. So, it’s part of their safety routine as well,” he said.

Remind children they are heroes when wearing masks, because they are protecting others, Simmerman said.

If students cannot wear masks due to any health issues, a doctor’s note will be required for school districts. Those exemptions come from the primary care physician.

“For the most part, most people, even with certain medical conditions, can wear them,” he said. “Some kids that have sort of sensory issues that would be related to things like autism or some other sort of disabilities, that may be difficult for them to have something that sits on their face due to the sensory issues.”

Even then, Dr. Simmerman says it is possible they can wear a mask. It just takes some practice and tolerance.

There are other options families can look into like face shields. However, parents should check with school district rules first.

Some parents are also worried about carbon dioxide build up when masks are worn for long periods of time. Simmerman says that is not true.

“They don’t cause any problems with too little oxygen or too much carbon dioxide or anything like that,” he said. “So, it’s really sort of a tolerance and comfort.”

Some school districts, like Spokane Public Schools and Coeur d’Alene Schools have mask breaks for kids, too.

Although wearing a mask for hours isn’t fun, let kids know it is temporary.

“Just say: ‘You’re going to be able to do it. It’s going to be okay,’ and ‘let’s practice some things so we can show you that’s how it’s going to work, and it’s going to be okay,'” Simmerman said.

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