Dr Susan Wimshurst, a clinical psychologist, offers her top five tips on helping to prepare your children for the new rules on face coverings.
The government has said that population-wide use of face coverings could help to keep the R rate below one and official guidance also states “If you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms, it may provide some protection for others you come into close contact with.”
But some parents have expressed concerns about the idea of trying to get their children to put a face covering on – and, even harder, keep them on.
Rachael Ashmore, a mum of two from Stockport, says: “It’s hard enough to get your kids to put their coats on before leaving the house, let alone remembering to put on a face mask. I have a 13-year-old and a five-year-old and, even though face coverings are only compulsory for those over the age of 11, I want my whole family to be protected and not have my youngest feeling left out.
“Teenagers often don’t have the same worries about safety that adults do, you just need to see how many ride around on their bikes without a helmet. Many are quite concerned about appearances and there’s the peer pressure factor too, so there’s quite a lot to contend with.”
Echoing the thoughts of Rachael is Dr Susan Wimshurst, a clinical psychologist from Oxford who specialises in child psychology. She explains: “Young children learn by example and like to copy the things that those around them are doing, especially other family members, so there will be many families out there that will want to make sure that all of their children are wearing face coverings, regardless of their age.”
To help families prepare their children for the new guidelines enforced from today, Dr Wimshurst, who also co-wrote “Brighter Futures”, a book to help parents with children’s mental well-being, shares her top five tips on getting your children to wear a face covering:
1 – Practice, practice and practice some more! Gentle exposure to the things that we are anxious about helps us to overcome our fears. So, the more you can let your child handle face coverings, the better. Practice wearing them inside the house and teach your child how to properly put them on and take them off.
2 – Let children choose their own covering. When we feel anxious, we like to try to gain as much control of the situation as we can to ease our worries. We are living in very uncertain times currently and so any little bit of control you can give your child will be helpful.
3 – Make it fun! Introduce and use face coverings in playtime to reduce the fear surrounding them. Younger children may want to pretend to be a doctor or a nurse – or even a superhero! I recommend snood-like coverings, such as the Virustatic Shield, as they don’t look medical and so consequently reduce the associated fears surrounding traditional masks whilst still offering protection against viruses. They also sit comfortably around the neck when not in use and so are less likely to be dropped or lost.
4 – Model the behaviour – children learn through observing the adults in their world. Let your child see you confidently wear your face covering when you go out and soon your children will accept it as part of their normal routine.
5 – Praise your child for wearing their face covering and be available to answer any questions and give support.
Dr Wimshurst also shared some insight into convincing your teens to don a face covering, even if they don’t think it’s ‘cool’: “Parents need to stress to their older children that if they are over 11, they must wear a face covering by law. It may be helpful to make sure that they fully understand the science behind wearing a covering and to encourage them to do their bit to keep others safe.”