Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even toddlers are advised to wear face masks when going outside. But for parents, the stubbornness of young children can be a problem in encouraging them to wear masks. So, the experts who contributed to the revised guidelines of face masks provided some tips.
The creative methods to encourage toddlers to wear face masks were offered by experts at Stanford University, a private research university in the US. Parents should not force young kids to wear face masks. Instead, use the power of entertainment and fun to make toddlers more excited about wearing the items. If done properly, some kids would even inspire others to do the same.
Why Toddlers are Naturally Stubborn
According to Riley Children's Health, a children's hospital at Indiana University, young children have a curiosity level that outmatches adults. But as children, they lack the necessary skills to satisfy their curiosity. This is because they are undergoing numerous developmental changes, which serve as obstacles to their desire to know many things. That strong desire drives their stubbornness every day that may give parents a headache.
"Kids this age are undergoing so many developmental changes that make them act this way, and it doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with them or your parenting skills," said Dr. Christine Raches, a clinical psychologist at Indiana University Health.
The toddler age, typically between one to three years, gives rise to the will to learn about everything. With five senses at their disposal, young kids want to know this and that. Unfortunately, the strong will can cause a power struggle between toddlers and parents, and every parent who raised at least one child knows how difficult that is. Even the most well-behaved child has its fair share of a power struggle with their parents just to fight for what they want.
The true reason behind the seemingly defiant attitude of toddlers is autonomy. They are starting to be their own person and excited to do some experiments. They are trying to figure out what things they can do and cannot do, and the only way to determine those is via trial and error. Yet their lack of physical and cognitive skills, currently developing, can result in several episodes of frustrations. From frustrations, stubbornness ensues, and if parents intervene, a power struggle will likely happen.
Dr. Raches suggests picking battles to preserve both authority and sanity. Though, parents should always be in favor of child safety if their kids are about to do something truly dangerous, like playing with fire or electricity. The most effective ways to avoid losing authority and sanity include saying "no" less frequently, learning about what triggers the child, and giving in so easily. Change the answer "no" into something else that has a similar meaning. At the same time, never add a trigger in the statement to prevent tantrums. And finally, be firm on the right decision even against tantrums. This is because when the child learns what can force their parents to give in, they will always use it to get what they want.
Face Masks and Toddlers
Worldwide, face masks are a typical item worn by people to prevent contracting COVID-19. Although many children are following the protocol, it is not easy to instruct and remind young kids to wear one all the time in public. This is a natural thing among kids. At Stanford University, two experts, Dr. Amy Price and Dr. Larry Chu, who contributed to the revised face masks guidelines offered their tips. These tips may help inspire toddlers to wear face masks for reasons beyond the pandemic.
First and foremost, parents should be role models in the task. Toddlers often copy what their parents do and it includes the frequent wearing of face masks. So, wear face masks together to help build the habit. If kids ask, parents can explain to them why it needs to be done. Next, select masks for toddlers with fun elements. Kids are allured by colors, designs, and patterns. For example, have toddlers wear animal face masks that resemble their favorite stuffed toys.
In case the child has drawing, coloring, or painting interests, inspire them to decorate their masks. Aside from honing their creative talents, personalization turns a simple face mask into something sentimental for them. Eventually, they will learn to value their personalized face masks and care for them. For toddlers who think face masks are uncool, show them other children and families wearing masks, especially those with designs. The idea may awaken something positive in them.
For those who are stubborn, use games, rewards, and bursts to help form the habit. Toddlers who are naturally stubborn cannot develop the habit healthily through force and intimidation. Games can be a great way to make them use the masks, while rewards can be offered if they wear the mask for a certain time or during a task. Bursts are short episodes of wearing masks at home to enforce encouragement. Five minutes every several hours of wearing masks together are significant in their habit progress.
"Kids will do what their parents are doing," said Dr. Price, a researcher from the Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab at Stanford.
Impact of Face Masks on COVID-19
According to Statista, a German portal for statistics, face masks have been an integral part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In survey data from Statista's COVID-19 Barometer, 81% of respondents from China, 39% from the US, 16% from Germany, and 20% from the UK confirmed wearing face masks when outside. Those numbers were in the week that ended on April 12, 2020. At the end of the week that ended on May 31, 2020, 66% of respondents in the US, 52% in Germany, and 20% in the UK wore face masks outside. About 78% of respondents in China said the same in the week that ended on May 3, 2020.
In terms of reducing transmission risk, both face masks and social distancing substantially decreased the chance of a person to catch the disease. Based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of 172 observational studies, wearing no face masks or respirators could increase the risk by 17.4%, compared to the 3.1% risk if wearing one. Wearing no eye protection could raise the risk by 16%, compared to the 5.5% risk if wearing one. And lastly, the social distancing of less than one meter could surge the chance of getting COVID-19 by 12.8%, compared to the 2.6% risk in social distancing of one meter or greater.
Toddlers can easily forget about COVID-19 when playing. So, it is important for parents to train their kids and explain in a not-scary way why they have to wear masks, but children younger than two years of age are recommended to wear one. They cannot reliably adjust the masks and they can experience breathing issues.