The COVID 19 pandemic is now at its peak all over Europe.
While countries like Denmark are taking small steps to get back to normal life, many parents are still reluctant to let children go back to school.
Within a few weeks nevertheless, normal life will look totally different, especially regarding education. Schools will open their doors to students once more but changes will have to be made for safety.
Parents are wondering whether they should make their children wear masks since it is challenging to convince a young child to keep something on their face for so long. So should children wear masks?
Are Children at risk?
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention children are not at higher risk than adults from COVID 19. If infected, the symptoms in children are usually mild cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough, while vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. Hence, the risk is high for the adults that children come into contact with as they can be “silent carriers” of the virus without knowing.
How are we supposed to protect our child and others from getting sick?
The CDC advises that “children of 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering their nose and mouth when in the community setting”. Unfortunately, in practice this is not very realistic as while they are awake children are constantly touching their face and objects in their environment, and will do even more so if they have a foreign object on their nose and mouth.
Having mentioned that, age plays a role in how much children can accept a mask. Depending on our child’s age the first step is to always talk about the current situation. Our children, like us, are living a unique and difficult time and we should keep in mind that they may also be stressed by this pandemic. They have stayed at home for several weeks now, away from school and their friends. It is very important to let them know that all this is in a way temporary and that the goal is to keep everyone healthy.
We must explain to them why it is asked of everyone to keep distances, to regularly wash their hands and to limit friend visits. We should also explain why the use of a mask is important while being outside in places where we cannot keep a distance from others as we might get sick from little virus particles that are transmitted in the air while we talk. Ofcourse, this applies to children of school age that are able to understand the necessity of masks. If our children are younger, then it gets tricky and the response varies from child to child. Then, assuming most children of school-age have understood the dangers, not all of them can wear a mask on their face without touching it, moving it up or down, and generally touching it with their hands. In this case, if we are in public it is best not to force our child to wear a mask as this may lead to a tantrum, which may easily result in them sitting on the floor and obtaining even more germs on their body. So if our child refuses to wear a mask just limit its social encounters.
When in public places should children wear a mask?
This depends on where we will go. It is generally advised to avoid crowded places. And if children are in toe, then we have yet another reason to do so. That being said if we have to visit a “crowded” place like a supermarket with our child, then he/she should definitely wear a mask to protect themselves and others. If we want to make the masks more interesting to kids, then a disney character mask or a diy customized one with their personal hero may help. We could also use a reward system where they could win stickers and favorite treats after wearing their mask.
Should our children wear masks at school?
Once schools reopen there will be new guidelines for all of us to follow. Although it is not yet clear if masks are required, some of the regulations will include changes in the daily routine.
- There will be different school arrival times for small groups of children
- Break time or recess will be separate for small groups of children, so that all the children are not in contact at the same place at the same time.
- Classroom lay-out will be reorganised so that children are at least 2 metres apart.
- Children that are ill or suspected to be ill will be advised to stay at home for a while or will be made to run a test to check whether they are coronavirus free.
- Remote learning will also be of use in such cases.
- Cleaning and disinfecting policies will also be more strict.
Saying all that we should really remember to be emotionally close to our children, to talk and comfort them, and even discuss plans about the future. Making plans about new experiences and meeting with extended family and friends will give them a reason to be patient and hopeful.