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The Family Project: Explain to children importance of masks

Q. I am a single mom with a three-year-old daughter, seven-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son. My nine-year-old asks me why he has to wear a face mask. He’s putting up such a fuss that his sisters are now questioning wearing their masks. What suggestions to you have to help my children through this?

“The number one job for parents is to keep their children safe,” panelist Joanne Raftas said, adding that the single mom is faced with a new challenge with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic protocol. “No one likes wearing masks. She just wants to keep her children safe from the virus,” said Raftas.

“There are natural consequences to not wearing a mask,” panelist Chad Stefanyak said, adding, “You can’t go out to eat or go shopping without a mask. The nine-year-old needs to wear a mask to go to school.

“The mom can set clear boundaries and delay going anywhere until the nine-year-old gets the point. She needs to be consistent,” Raftas said, adding, “She can talk about how uncomfortable masks are, but wearing masks is not negotiable.”

Said panelist Mike Daniels, “This is not about wearing masks. It is about the son giving push back to his mother, and getting his sisters to follow along. He eventually wears the mask, but before doing it spends five to 10 minutes grumbling.”

Daniels said the real motive is the son’s power: “He’s trying to control his life with his mask.”

Panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo suggested linking mask-wearing to something important to the boy, such as the health of his grandmother or a friend. The mother can explain how the virus could spread through coughing and talking, and that wearing a mask is an act of kindness.

The mother can try an experiment with the children to try and blow out a candle wearing a mask, panelist Pam Wallace said. Being unable to blow out the candle shows how masks help stop the spread of the virus.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under age 2 shouldn’t wear face masks because of suffocation and choking hazards. Also, parents of children with cognitive or respiratory impairments should exercise caution with face masks for their children. If you have questions or concerns about whether your child is healthy enough to wear a face mask, it’s best to speak with their primary-care physician.

This week’s panel: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, Denise Continenza, extension educator; Joanne Raftas, Northampton Community College, independent counselor; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor, and Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, former teacher and school administrator.

Have a question? Email: projectchild@projectchildlv.org

The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health-care provider, with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.