#childsafety | Jessica Rolph On Teaching Kids Importance Of Wearing Masks & Social Distancing

Jessica Rolph of Lovevery shares some tips on teaching our kids the importance of hygiene during the pandemic.

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the whole world by surprise. What was once a care-free, laidback world of playtime for the kids has turned grim and restricted. Each person now has to wear a mask and practice social distancing for the collective safety of our society.

All these new practices may be a bit tough for the kids, since they are not used to it. So how can we help them appreciate these new guidelines? How can we properly teach them that wearing a mask might be uneasy at first, but it’s a necessary step to help protect the health of everyone around us? Jessica Rolph, Lovevery CEO and co-founder, shares some tips and techniques as to how we can teach children about the COVID-19 hygiene protocols, and help them understand why these steps are important.

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Thank you so much for giving us a bit of your time to discuss this very relevant topic during these tough times. For starters, what are some of the reasons you feel it is important to teach children and teenagers to wear a mask?At Lovevery, we wrote and produced a downloadable and printable e-book called Doing My Part, authored by Marta Drew, to help young children make sense of this pandemic. We really want to be of service to families, especially during the at-home learning years before school begins. We heard that some parents were struggling to encourage their children to wear a mask around grandparents, or for play-dates or trips to the store.

Books can be a really powerful and relatable tool for explaining a grown-up topic like a pandemic. We know that the uncertainty and tension around COVID-19 is affecting young children as much as it affects adults. We wanted to help by writing a book specifically about a child’s experience:

“I don’t like the feeling of wearing a mask/ sometimes I feel stuffy and hot/ but the germs from a cough or a sneeze can move fast/ whether anyone sees them or not.”As we know, important conversations begin at home. How do you think parents can most adequately explain the COVID-19 pandemic situation?A lot of adults are struggling to understand this pandemic—we know we are. It’s enormous and touches so many different aspects of life. If it’s hard for us, it’s even more confusing for children.

It’s easy to say either too much or too little when we talk to small children about “adult” things. They always seem to know more than we think they do, but it’s important not to overwhelm them with the information they’re not equipped to handle.What is your advice for parents as to how parents can teach and properly reinforce preventive actions at home?It’s important not to just describe or explain preventative actions, but also to model them. Research shows that 30% of a child’s brain is devoted to visual processing, and only 3% to auditory processing. Books like Doing My Part can be a powerful tool at a time like this. A book about another child like them, who is washing their hands while they “sing a whole song,” wearing a mask, sneezing in their elbow, and expressing how they feel about it all goes much further than just telling them what to do.

“I feel far away and I want to get close/ I’d run to their arms if I dared/ I think I miss Grandma and Grandpa the most/ and I see them sitting right there”

Children model what their parents are doing. How can we set a good example at home so our kids can be influenced to practice good hygiene?One thing to remember is that washing hands and wearing a mask aren’t necessarily intuitive or automatic for young children. We recommend setting them up for hand-washing success with a step stool to help them reach the faucet, liquid soap, a towel hung at their level, and encouraging them to “sing a whole song” while they wash their hands. That independence is empowering for them; they’re so proud when they can do something on their own.

Children also love to be included in whatever adults are doing, so invite them along when you’re washing your own hands or putting your own mask on. Wearing a mask can feel strange or even scary for some children, so consider lightening the mood and be a little bit silly: pretend you don’t know how to wear your mask and let your child “fix it” for you. Laughing together can make you both feel better.

Staying at home instead of doing our usual routines outside can understandably make kids feel suddenly displaced. How can we help our kids healthily express their emotions during these tough times?Having all of these big emotions without the words to explain them is hard for young children, especially now. Parents and caregivers can make a big difference by first helping children to name their feelings and then letting them know it’s okay to have them.

Tuning into how children are feeling is so important right now; it’s easy to get distracted by our adult experience of the pandemic. Small children can’t just walk up to us and let us know they’re having a hard time. They may throw tantrums, get clingy, complain of stomach aches or headaches, or have trouble sleeping.

In a particular moment of disappointment or sadness, like a canceled playdate or not being allowed to hug a grandparent, we adults have an opportunity to help children name the feeling they’re having. You can say something like “you were so excited to see your friend today, and now we’re not able to after all. That is so disappointing. I can understand why that would make you cry.” Then just put your arms around them and let them be sad about it. Doing this helps your child understand what they’re feeling and reassures them that their feelings are valid.

The girl in Doing My Part says: “I’m missing my friends and my teacher and school/ I’m missing my music class too/ sometimes there are so many limits and rules/ there isn’t much left I can do” Hearing another child struggling with the same things is comforting for children in the same way it is comforting for adults.

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