The week's best parenting advice: July 6, 2021
What experts say about vaccines and heart inflammation, tips for applying sunscreen to kids, and more
Heart inflammation and the COVID vaccine
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that some teens and young adults had experienced heart inflammation after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. That sounds scary, and indeed, myocarditis and pericarditis should not be ignored. But it's important to put this "extremely rare" side effect into perspective. About 500 young people under the age of 30 have reported it, often following their second vaccine dose. Symptoms are usually mild and "have lasted just a couple of days; most of the inflammation has been fairly straightforward to treat," writes Katherine J. Wu at The Atlantic. No deaths have been reported. On the flip side, COVID-19 has infected millions of young people and killed more than 300 under age 18. "If I had to take my chances, I'd rather take my chances with the adverse effects of myocarditis down the road than with an actual viral infection," Thomas Murray, a pediatric infectious disease physician and the associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, told The Atlantic.
How to apply sunscreen when your kid hates it
It's beach season, which means it's sunscreen season. How much should kids be wearing, exactly? More than you think, says Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker. In fact, just assume they're not wearing enough — and apply more. Go for a high-SPF option, reapply every two hours, "and don't forget to hit the tops of the feet and hands, the ears, the back of the neck, the top of the head, and the lips." If your kid is extra squirmy or hates applying sunscreen, Moravcik Walbert suggests trying a countdown: "Count down — or up — to a set number so they know when the torture will end." If that doesn't work, apply it when they can't escape, like when they're in the car seat or stroller. Or better yet, "build it into your regular going-outside routine so they come to accept it as part of leaving the home."
Helping a 'shy' child
How can parents support a "shy" child? It's all about striking a balance, says Melinda Wenner Moyer at The New York Times. "Don't coddle your shy child, but don't force them into frightening situations," she says. If you take them to social engagements, talk about it beforehand so they know what's coming. "Rehearsing" a potentially stressful situation with your child like this can help take the edge off. Let them sit with you if they wish, and offer them a "secret signal" they can give when they're feeling anxious, so you can be extra supportive. This could be a squeeze of your hand, for example. And remember they probably won't be shy forever. "We don't want to pigeonhole kids in the preschool years — 'they're going to be shy or outgoing' — because there"s still a lot of change that can happen," Vanessa LoBue, a psychologist at Rutgers University, told the Times.
Nighttime potty training tips
Parents of toddlers know potty training can be a long and messy process, and night training is usually the last step in the journey. When, exactly, should kids stop having nighttime accidents? It varies from child to child — most are night trained by age 5 — so don't rush it. "I would say to wait at least six months after your child is fully daytime trained to start thinking about transitioning to nighttime training," Dr. Jazmine McCoy, clinical psychologist and founder of The Mom Psychologist, tells Fatherly. You'll know they're ready if they have few daytime accidents and are staying dry through any naps. Start building a routine in which your child visits the potty 30 minutes before bed, and again right before lights out. And do yourself a favor by protecting their bed with two sheets and two linings so you can just remove the top one in case of a midnight accident. "This makes for much smoother bed changes when you are groggy and your child is wet and uncomfortable," writes Fatherly's Christian Dashiell.
Alexa, let's read
Depending on your tolerance for semi-dystopian technological advances, you might be pleased to know that Amazon's Alexa can now help kids learn to read. "Reading Sidekick" is a new feature included in the Kids Plus service on most Alexa-enabled devices that will listen to a child read a book aloud and offer help on things like pronunciation, or simply read to the child as he or she follows along with the book's text. As Dan Seifert at The Verge notes, Alexa won't "follow up with any sort of comprehension questions to see how much the child retained or understood from the book. There's no test or quiz component; it's best to think of this as edutainment than a replacement for a proper learning curriculum." If you're looking to keep your kid reading the old-fashioned way this summer, check out The Week Junior's top 50 book recommendations for kids, and join the Summer of Reading program.