Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: August 10, 2021

Another pandemic school year, how to ease back-to-school anxieties, and more

1

Another pandemic school year

As children and teens prepare to return to school across the U.S., parents are faced with a tough question: Just how dangerous is the Delta COVID-19 variant for my kids? Unfortunately, pediatric specialists and epidemiologists don't have a definitive answer, and may not until school has been back in session for a few months. That may seem like a cruel experiment, and indeed, many parents are grappling with the challenges of yet another pandemic school year. But remember, there's still "no firm evidence that the disease is more severe," in kids, Dr. Jim Versalovic, interim pediatrician in chief at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, tells The New York Times. Until more data comes in, parents and children age 2 and up should wear masks in larger crowds, the American Academy of Pediatrics' Sean O'Leary tells The Washington Post, adding: "The most important thing that we can do is everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated, be vaccinated."

2

Calming the back-to-school nerves

"The first day (week, month) of school can be hard on some kids," says Meghan Moravcik Walbert at Lifehacker, especially if they've spent much of the last year learning at home. Parents can help ease the anxiety a little bit by walking kids through what to expect. That could mean scheduling a meeting (virtual or otherwise) with the teacher, and if you can't visit the classroom in-person, requesting a video tour. "Anything you can do to demystify the experience of the first day may help ease their anxiety," Moravcik Walbert writes. If the anxiety persists, avoid giving in by letting your child stay home. "When you have something that makes you anxious, avoiding it is very reinforcing," says child psychologist Abigail Gewirtz. Instead, teach them coping mechanisms, like calming breathing exercises. And work with their teacher to come up with solutions. 

3

Don't be that parent

It's natural for parents to want to tell new teachers, coaches, and tutors all about their kid's capabilities. But oversharing and over-orchestrating can backfire, says Brandon Bell at The Washington Post. "My urge to orchestrate things may actually draw negative attention, coming across as interference. … Nothing I say will get [my son] more playing time, a better position or help the coach see how much he loves the game. Leaders base those decisions on their own evaluations, not on parental endorsements." Trust that your child's capabilities will speak for themselves, and trust that this new leader will recognize talent when they see it. But don't expect that leader to put your child front and center all the time. "When leaders make decisions we don't like, it's useful to remember that any leader with even a year or two of experience will have worked with more participants at a given age or level than even informed parents."

4

How to negotiate pay with a babysitter

There are many factors to consider when trying to decide how much to pay a babysitter, one being the sitter's age. Generally the older they are, the more financial responsibilities they'll have, and the more they'll expect to be paid. But before you go hiring a youngster, remember that age also goes hand-in-hand with capability. For example, sitters over the age of 18 "are able to stay longer and later than the 12- to 17-year-olds and may have more experience and flexibility," explains Linda Sarhan at We Have Kids. As such, they'll expect a higher hourly wage. Remember that not all babysitters come with qualifications like CPR training. If that's a priority for you, offer to pay more. And while you may think your kid is a perfect angel, be realistic about their temperament, and factor this into your negotiations. A "naturally defiant" kid may be more expensive to hire a sitter for than "a child that is shy and reserved."

5

What not to say during a tantrum

When a toddler is having a meltdown, the last thing parents want to do is make it worse. And yet, we do, by attempting to teach, negotiate with, reason with, or punish a toddler during a tantrum. "Think of a time you, as an adult, overreacted and lost your s--t," say Kristin Gallant and Deena Margolin at Big Little Feelings. The last thing you probably wanted was to be scolded, belittled, or told what you should have done instead. Probably all you needed was for someone to acknowledge your frustrations and let you feel how you felt. The same is true for toddlers, whose brains aren't receptive to lessons or feedback during tantrums. So don't even try. Instead, "let your calm be contagious. Allow that healthy release and ride the tantrum wave." Only when the storm passes should you help your child name their feelings, identify any boundaries they crossed, and learn from their mistakes.  

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