Parentalogic hosts Bethany Van Delft and Dr. Alok Patel understand what parents are going through right now. Bethany, a comedian, is a parent herself. Dr. Patel is a pediatrician and ABC News special correspondent. The two tackle science’s answer to parents’ burning questions on the digital series.
Naturally, there are a lot of intersections of those areas where COVID-19 is concerned. In a recent video, Bethany and Alok explained how masks work at preventing the spread of the virus. The two also talked about when and where children should be wearing masks.
Bethany and Alok answered some questions from LittleThings about common concerns among parents.
There are a lot of parents who believe that mask rules depend on a child’s age. In some circumstances, you’ll see an adult wearing a mask while the child accompanying them is not.
“Mask wearing helps keep each other safe, period. We talk with our children a lot about empathy and how mask-wearing not only helps keep us safe, it shows empathy for others by doing our part to help keep people safe,” Bethany said.
“Kids, above the age of 2, should be wearing masks in the same capacity as adults. Granted, some kids in that 2 to 5 age group or some kids with specific medical diagnoses may have trouble wearing a mask, but for all other little ones, masks are part of the new normal!” Alok added.
“I think part of the confusion comes from the false reporting that kids are somehow ‘immune’ or can’t transmit the virus — neither is true. Kids, of all ages, can absolutely catch and transmit coronavirus, with or without symptoms.”
Schools across the country that are reopening for in-person learning have many different policies when it comes to mask-wearing. Some kids need to wear them for the entirety of the school day, while others only have to wear them under certain conditions.
Many schools that are heavy on the mask-wearing are trying to work in mask breaks for younger kids. Alok says the logic doesn’t exactly add up.
“I get why mask breaks seem like a good idea. But, let’s be real, unless they’re done in a strictly controlled setting, which they often aren’t, they can lead to outbreaks,” he said.
“I think it’s OK if people take mask breaks when they’re isolated, by themselves, but it’s difficult to do this in a large-scale, coordinated setting,” he continued.
“Unless there is some recess game where everyone stands apart, takes their masks off, and puts them back on … It’s probably better for the young’uns to learn to just keep them on when around others.”
That said, many parents are struggling to get kids to wear their masks and follow all the rules of doing so. Bethany and Alok offered their suggestions.
“We use the same techniques we’ve used to get them to do all kinds of things they struggle with, like potty training, handwashing, turn-taking, and using manners,” Bethany said.
“Patience, consistency, tenacity, Elmo, Daniel Tiger.”
“It all starts at home! Practice wearing a mask with your kids, get them involved in mask making or decorating, involve masks in playtime, and above all, model good mask-wearing behavior,” Alok added.
“Your kids should get used to them at home and they’ll feel empowered when they understand they’re protecting others. Bonus points if you can put their favorite superhero on the mask!”
Heading into winter, a lot more questions will arise. Will the cold, wet weather call for different masks? Do they need more than a cloth mask during cold and flu season? Alok shared what parents should keep in mind going into winter.
“In our current dystopian reality, I think parents should prepare for masks to be part of the winter routine, possibly also spring 2021’s routine as well,” he said.
“We’re a ways away from widespread distribution of a vaccine and the necessary herd immunity to get us out of this mess,” he continued.
That said, there will be some perks to mask-wearing through the winter.
“Coming this winter, as well, is cold and flu season and the added hygiene and mask-wearing will surely be added protection when it comes to influenza, RSV, and the other nasty bugs which are yearning to infect you and your family.”
Also coming up in the latter half of this year is the holiday season. Families will struggle with how to safely make plans, especially those with families who don’t all feel the same about mask-wearing and COVID-19. With this question, there isn’t one answer that applies to everyone.
“It is up to each family to figure out what is best for their family and go from there,” Bethany noted.
“I feel like a lot of families have that one outlier who refuses to wear a mask. Maybe it’s a political statement or a result of a conspiracy theory they read on Facebook,” Alok said.
“Regardless of the reason, approach the family member with respect and try to have an open dialogue about why you need them to wear a mask to be around you and other family members. It’s tempting to immediately get hostile and write people off, but remember, many of us share the same frustrations with this mishandled, deadly pandemic.”
“Ask that family member to look at scientific studies or chat with a health care professional,” he encouraged.
“Granted, that often doesn’t work, so try to reason with them about why it’s important for your family. If THAT doesn’t work, then tell Uncle Jared, ‘Sorry, but you aren’t invited to any family gatherings anymore.'”