The week's best parenting advice: June 22, 2021
Road trip tips, prepping for camp, and more
Road trip tips
Planning a family road trip this summer? Join the club. One survey from Bridgestone Americas suggests that more than half of Americans plan to drive to their vacation spots this summer, The New York Times reports. Roads could be busy, delays could be frequent, and kids will absolutely be whiny. Julia Marcum, of the Chris Loves Julia blog, shares her tips for road trips with kiddos. Snacks are key, but save yourself from having to be the snack vendor by putting the food in the trunk. "When you make a stop, you let the kids 'shop' the snacks that they want to tide them over until the next stop," Marcum says. "I love that this gives them ownership over their choices and something to look forward to. Plus then we're not having to deal with 'can I have more fruit snacks' every 5 minutes."
If your kid is headed to summer camp soon, start prepping them now for the emotions that might arise. The transition from home to camp, or school to camp, can come with lots of anxieties. Clinical psychologist Rebecca Kennedy of Good Inside recommends what she calls "Emotional Vaccination" — discussing tricky feelings in advance so they're more manageable later. Here's what this might sound like, as imagined by Kennedy: You've been with the same group of kids at school and now you're about to be with a totally different group of kids. You've been with the same teacher now there's gonna be a new counselor. What's that going to be like? That might feel a little tricky, I know new things feel tricky for me at first. "Now when camp comes and things might feel a little tricky or a little new in that way, your child has already wired those feelings next to your support and validation," Kennedy says. "Those are key elements in regulation."
Coping with colic
"All babies cry," says Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. "But some babies cry a lot." A "colicky" baby cries for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week. Dealing with this kind of stress can bring parents to their breaking point, but Moravcik Walbert has some survival tactics. First, set up a schedule with your partner so you're sharing the load of comforting the baby. And do this as soon as possible, ideally during a moment of calm, because "when the child is screaming is not the time to devise such a schedule," she says. Ask for (and accept!) help from family and friends so you can get a break. And buy some ear protection. "When you're in the thick of it all and trying to wrangle and soothe them, there is no shame in wearing earplugs or noise canceling headphones and listening to music or a podcast at the same time," one parent recommends. "You're still being there for them and it can help take the edge off."
What are your ground rules?
Every home should have a handful of "ground rules" that everyone abides by, say Kristin Gallant and Deena Margolin at Big Little Feelings, which specializes in online courses for toddlers. These rules can be simple but powerful. For example: "We are kind, even when we don't agree," or "We stop rough play when someone says 'stop.'" Repeating ground rules often does a couple of things, Gallant and Margolin say. First, it shapes kids' inner voices. "These 'ground rule' start to become part of who they are," they say. Second, they help parents enforce boundaries. "When things do go off track — like, your toddler hits their brother in the face — you'll have your clear family rules to draw back on." A crucial element, of course, is following the ground rules yourself. So when your toddler asks you to "stop" during physical play, you stop.
Mind your manners
Kids have bad table manners, much to the ire of their parents. Melinda Wenner Moyer, author of How to Raise Kids Who Aren't A**holes, asked some experts to explain why her 6-year-old daughter struggles to sit still at mealtimes, and discovered that "many of the problems kids have at mealtime stem from how they're positioned." For example, small children lack core strength required to sit straight for extended periods of time. They literally have to move into a new position, which explains all the wriggling at the dinner table. Furniture size also plays a big role, feeding therapist Jenny McGlothlin told Wenner Moyer. If a kid's feet dangle off the chair without any foot support, they'll tire from using their cores, and probably try to crouch or kneel. If the table is too high, it's difficult for them to see or reach their food comfortably. Aim for the "90-90-90 position" — with a 90 degree angle at your child's hips, knees, and ankles, Wenner Moyer suggests. And make sure the table meets your child between their chest and waist.