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A Class in COVID: Conditioning kids to wear face masks

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(WTNH) — For the Lombardi family, putting on masks is now second nature.

“It’s really important to make it a part of their daily routine, instead of having them go into a forced situation where they’re uncomfortable,” says mom, Jessica Lombardi.

12-year-old Bella says she’s used to keeping her mask handy. “Every time I pretty much went out of the house I’ve either had it in my hand or on my face.”

Experts say the trick is to ease kids into wearing a mask a little at a time.

“You can start by doing it for a little bit at a time during a fun activity that’s pretty low demand,” says Dr. Robert Keder, a Behavioral Pediatrician at Connecticut Children’s. “So, you can do it while watching TV or playing video games.”

Dr. Keder recommends that once they can keep it on for an hour of video games, then try 15 minutes while doing chores. Then you keep increasing the time.

Back at the Lombardi’s, dad Michael runs a youth baseball league. “We have to be socially responsible with other people, inside of our settings, and masks are a good way to prevent that transfer.”

So Michael Junior already has practice wearing that mask with the team logo and his number on it.

“We’re getting used to it. It’s pretty hard,” says 9-year-old M.J. “Whenever we go to the field, we put our masks on, and when we leave the field we always take it off.”

Mom Jessica is also a teacher. She wants students accustomed to masks for their safety and hers. She is telling them, “Everyone else is wearing one. It’s keeping me safe and it’s keeping everyone around me safe as well.”

But if your child is struggling with a mask, there are some tricks you can try.

“So you can talk about making your own mask, and being a masked superhero,” says Dr. Keder. “You can do playacting, pretending to be a doctor, or a nurse, or a pharmacist, or any other health care professional at home.”

The Lombardi kids have a lot of different masks. The look of a mask is important to 4-year-old London.

“I like it,” says London of one of her masks. “Because it has flowers on it.”

All the kids know how serious this is because grandma, Michael’s mother, died of COVID-19 back in April at age 65. Bella sums up the attitude we all should have about masks.

“If you practice even more and more, you’ll get more used to it,” says Bella.

The doctor says keep an eye out for irritation and rash around the mouth. That could be a sign that a mask is not fitting right, or needs to be washed. And remember, kids imitate what they see, so the more you wear a mask, the more they will want to as well.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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