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Masks in class: How parents can help

Two masked grade school kids touching elbows in a school hallway.

There's a lot of debate around the country about masks in schools. And it's natural as a parent to wonder what's best for your child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all kids, teachers, staff and visitors wear masks at school. That includes everyone 2 years of age and older, whether they are vaccinated or not.

Why mask up at school?

Infections in children rose sharply this summer. No vaccine is authorized yet for children under the age of 5. That means they can more easily catch and spread COVID-19. Even older children who are vaccinated can contract the virus—especially the more contagious Delta and Omicron variants—and give it to others. Masks are one of the best prevention strategies we have to keep kids safe right now.

It's also important for adults to mask up at school. Even short stints maskless can have unintended consequences. For example, in California, an unvaccinated teacher removed her face mask while reading aloud over the course of a few days. Half the kids in the class got COVID-19, CDC reports.

Parenting pro tips

Is your child having trouble adjusting to masking up all day at school? Here are some ideas that might help:

Find the right fit. If your child's mask is causing discomfort, the child may be more likely to take it off at school. A mask should fit securely over the nose and mouth, and it should stretch from ear to ear with no gaps at the sides. Check that the straps are snug but not uncomfortable.

Let them pick their style. A fun mask can help children feel excited to wear it at school. You can let them pick or even decorate their mask.

Make it feel normal. Wear your mask in public indoor places so that your child can see you model healthy behavior.

Take time to talk. Give children a chance to talk about their worries. Remind them that masks help keep them and those they care about safe.

Need a face mask refresher? Check out these do's and don'ts of cloth face masks.

Reviewed 1/27/2022

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