Parents encouraged to practice wearing masks with kids before schools reopen

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INDIANAPOLIS — Over the next few weeks, schools across central Indiana will reopen with a variety of coronavirus-related changes, including mask requirements for children returning to school buildings.

Pediatricians like Dr. Allison Koepke at Southpointe Pediatrics say now is the time for parents to be working with their children to make sure they are ready for daily mask wearing.

“Some of the older kids will probably just naturally take to it,” Dr. Koepke said. “With the younger kids, you may have to start kind of slowly, just a couple minutes at a time, keep working your way up as you go.”

The best way to keep masks from being a major distraction in school is to make sure children are already used to wearing them by the time they return to the classroom, Koepke said. She suggests practicing with kids at home, wearing masks for a few minutes at a time and building up to longer periods. She also suggests wearing the masks while doing fun activities in order to avoid focusing too much on the mask itself.

“Like we’ll play a board game with our mask on, or we’ll FaceTime with our grandparents or a friend from school with our mask on,” Koepke said.

She also suggests using a reward system for young kids to encourage them to get some daily “mask time” in.

“Some younger kids may be incentivized by stickers or some kind of reward chart, depending on the kid’s age,” she said.

Dr. Koepke also encourages parents to make sure their kids have masks that fit properly in order to minimize distraction.

“I see kids kind of pulling them down over their nose or lifting them up, or not keeping them around their face,” she said. “I think it’s kind of important to try them on ahead of time to make sure they fit them pretty well.”

Like most fourth graders, Jayden Ramey has never had to wear a mask to school before. That’s part of the reason why he’s been practicing. It’s also why his mom has clearly explained why the mask is required.

“It helps me and others be safe in stores and all that,” Jayden said. “I think it’s going to be like everybody wearing a mask like it’s Halloween, but it’s not.”

“It’ll be kind of weird because everybody will be walking around with masks,” said incoming 8th grader Drake Mars.

Drake says he’s okay with wearing his mask, but he has a good friend who isn’t.

“He doesn’t like to put it on because he thinks he looks dumb with it,” he said.

Dr. Koepke also points out that children pick up on parents’ behavior and attitudes.

“I think parents do need to be a role model,” Koepke said. “When we put our mask on, we need to do it consistently. We need to be positive about this. We’re doing this to help others.”

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