The idea that my daughter, Desi, would need to wear a mask first hit me during the thick of the flu season this year.
I wanted to run a few errands but was concerned about exposing Desi to germs and other bacteria. Plus, we had appointments with both our pediatrician and CF clinic on the calendar, when I knew she would need to wear a mask to reduce her risk of breathing in or spreading germs. This got me thinking about how I could prepare for these upcoming visits.
When I was working toward my degrees in child life and early childhood education, my studies emphasized the importance of preparing children in advance before an event happens. Research shows that the more education and knowledge you give them on what to expect, the higher the success rate. This is textbook for Desi.
Anytime that I “role play” a situation with her, give examples, or prepare her for something new, she will respond positively. Even though she is only 2 and a half, my husband, Ross, and I make a point to respect her independence and expect that she will overcome any challenge thrown her way. Besides, I knew the earlier we could start a routine, the better.
Like some situations, dealing with this from an academic perspective was quite different than living it.
It always astonishes me how many resources are out there on social media -- from both veteran and “new-to-the-game” parents like myself. Surely, someone out there had faced this exact dilemma.
So, rather than continuing to come up with my own ideas, I took my dilemma to social media with the ask: “How do you help your child start wearing a mask?”
Sure enough, many parents were beyond kind enough to step up and elaborate on what had worked for them or provide any information they had received. Others bravely spoke out and shared that their children weren't interested in wearing masks either, which was great and made me feel like I wasn't alone in this endeavor.
Even better, all these suggestions were in one place, ready for me to read over and attempt one by one. Perfect!
Tips from social media:
- The parents wear a mask so that the child doesn't feel alone.
- While wearing masks, look in the mirror and talk about it.
- Put a mask on a favorite stuffed animal.
- Decorate the surgical mask so it's more personalized and fun.
- Show her pictures of other children wearing masks.
- Draw a mask on her favorite book character.
We found that having her favorite baby doll wear a mask during playtime was the simplest way for her to start feeling comfortable with a mask present. Several friends in the CF community sent me photos of their children sporting the mask, which also helped.
We played with the baby doll in a mask for two days until Desi didn't seem to notice it anymore. On day three, she asked for some sweets as a snack, and I told her that if she could wear a mask like her baby, she could have three M&M'S®. That's what finally did it! She wore her mask for 10 seconds while I counted, cheered, and danced around the kitchen like a lunatic, trying to distract her. Success!
We did this same bit, off and on, several more times before the day of her CF clinic appointment.
The morning of clinic, I chatted with her in the car about who we would get to see that day and, of course, mentioned how I brought her mask that she would wear inside and when leaving. We brought along a tube of M&M'S® minis that we handed her while getting out of the car. I squatted down to her eye level and explained that she could carry them in herself while wearing her mask. Then, once we were in the room, she would be able to enjoy them. Again -- success!
I do not in any way claim to know what I am doing at all times while on this “CF road trip,” but I will say that I am part of a stellar community who encourages, motivates, and shares all kinds of tricks when a need is posed. For that, I am so very thankful!