The week's best parenting advice: August 3, 2021
How to protect unvaccinated kids, when to have "the talk," and more
How parents can navigate the new masking guidelines
For vaccinated parents with unvaccinated young children, it might be difficult to understand and navigate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest mask guidelines. But don't panic just yet. While the Delta variant is spreading nationwide, the risk of serious disease in children still remains "really low," notes economist and author Emily Oster, pointing to data from the U.K., where case rates remained relatively low in children under 12 even during that country's recent Delta wave. Oster recommends parents go back to the "swiss cheese" model of prevention, and consider regular COVID testing if they're unsure of their infection status. Gregg Gonsalves, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, says the best thing parents can do to protect their kids from COVID-19 is to be vaccinated themselves: "If you're vaccinated, you've done the most important thing for you and your family and friends to keep everyone safe."
The birds and the bees
When should parents have "the talk" with their kids? "Early and often," says Melinda Wenner Moyer at The New York Times. In fact, as soon as kids start speaking, parents should begin the process of establishing an open dialogue about bodies and consent, according to Eva Goldfarb, a sex educator and professor of public health at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Don't assume schools will do this for you: Twenty states have no requirement for teaching sex-ed, and just nine teach kids about consent. You can lay the groundwork for this conversation early on by teaching little ones the correct anatomical terms for their body parts, as euphemisms "send the message … that these parts of their bodies are shameful or taboo, and that they shouldn't come to us with questions about them," Wenner Moyer says.
When sharing can backfire
Sharing is an important social-emotional skill, and parents are right to encourage it in their kids. But do children always have to share? Parenting psychologist Dr. Heather Wittenberg tells Lifehacker we should avoid forcing kids to share, because sometimes this can clash with a child's boundaries and teach them that pleasing others is what matters most. "You can force them to give up their boundaries and insist they share, even if it feels really wrong to them. But that teaches the wrong lesson, doesn't it?" Focus instead on instilling this behavior through "lots of trial, error, tons of encouragement, and good modeling from parents," Wittenberg says. Acknowledge how hard sharing can be, and call it out when you see it "in the wild."
When to worry about lying
Lying is a normal part of childhood development, so don't freak out if your kid is telling a few fibs here and there. According to Kang Lee, a developmental psychologist at the University of Toronto, lying behavior usually peaks around ages 10 or 11. But parents should worry if lying is something a child does all the time and in lots of different situations, or if they're lying about things that could be dangerous. If the behavior gets out of control, try to find the root of the problem and help alleviate it. But avoid dwelling on or even using the word "lie" and instead stress the importance of truthfulness. "Catch your kids being honest," Tori Cordiano, a clinical psychologist and director of research at Laurel School's Center for Research on Girls in Ohio, tells The Washington Post.
Do mothers have more dental problems?
Is there a link between motherhood and dental problems? According to Rosie Colosi at The Atlantic, one study of 2,500 American women concluded that yes, "the more children you have, the more likely you are to have lost teeth." But it's unclear why this might be the case. Stefanie L. Russell, a professor of epidemiology and health promotion at NYU's College of Dentistry, and the woman behind the study, suggests pregnant women may not get proper dental care due to lingering outdated fears in the profession. "Dentists used to be taught not to treat pregnant women unless it was an emergency," she tells Colosi. Colosi, who got her first cavity-ever after having two kids, thinks it might have more to do with the stress and lack of self-care that often comes with motherhood. "I know now that, as a mother, I will likely lose more teeth than a woman without children, but I don't intend to do so willingly," she says. "I'm paying more attention to brushing well ... and I've started flossing regularly (imagine that!) at night, along with my preschoolers."