The week's best parenting advice: August 19, 2021
RSV vs. COVID, going free-range after the pandemic, and more
RSV vs. COVID: What you need to know
Seasonal spread of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is rising unusually early and quickly this year, pediatric hospitals have reported. Most adults experience RSV as an ordinary cold, but the illness can be severe in young children, and some of its symptoms — including fever, cough, and runny nose — overlap with COVID-19. But there are differences parents may be able to discern: COVID-19 cases in young children tend to be mild, often asymptomatic. RSV is more likely to make itself known, layering on symptoms like sneezing, low appetite, and wheezing. And whichever infection you suspect, of course, seek medical help if your child has trouble breathing, lethargy, dehydration, or high fever.
Free-range after the pandemic?
Caution has been the watchword of the pandemic, but is there another way forward once it's over? "Free-range" parenting advocates like author Lenore Skenazy — who found herself suddenly controversial in 2008 after she wrote an article about letting her 9-year-old navigate a trip on the New York subway system alone — argue children should be given more time for unsurveilled play, more autonomy to make their own decisions, and more freedom to explore the outdoors. The end of the pandemic could be an ideal moment to try her recommendation of a 1980s-style childhood. Or parents could try it sooner. After all, COVID-19 is almost never transmitted outside.
Tips for back to (in-person) school
After perhaps a year or more of remote learning, how do you prepare your child to go back to school in person this fall? In conversation with other medical and educational experts at The Washington Post, K-8 counselor Phyllis Fagell offers tips for parents navigating that transition: Work with your children to create a realistic routine, she says. Teach them to make lists and schedules instead of relying on mental recall of their obligations. Keep in mind that frustrating behaviors may be an expression of stress. Gamify difficult homework or suggest ways to incorporate physical movement. And remember: This semester won't last forever, nor will its troubles.
You can nix bribes for chores
American parents often bribe, threaten, or cajole our kids to get them to do chores. That's not the global norm, reports NPR science correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff, who has studied parenting styles in cultures much older than our own. "In many cultures around the world, kids help around the house and with family chores voluntarily," Doucleff writes. If yours don't, she advises, drawing on her anthropological research, try "focus[ing] on doing the chores as a family instead of individual tasks" and "be sure kids are making genuine contributions to the group task." For example, don't ask them to wipe a surface you've already cleaned. They'll know.
Baby stuff new parents can skip
The baby-industrial complex is a sprawling feature of new parents' lives, yet a lot of the "necessities" are anything but. Among the newborn items you can probably skip, per Parents.com: fancy baby clothes, all baby shoes, bedding accessories like crib bumpers and blankets, wipe and bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, bath thermometers (just stick your hand in there) and baby baths, a changing table, and pretty much all toys (other people will buy them for you). If you want a Montessori-style nursery, you can even skip the crib. Once your baby is past the bassinet stage, graduate her to a low mattress right on the floor.