Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: August 31, 2021

A timeline for kids' vaccines, how to throw a greener birthday party, and more

1

Where are the vaccines for kids?

Parents of young children are anxiously watching pediatric COVID-19 case numbers rise and wondering: Where are the vaccines for kids under 12? Health officials are now signaling that a shot for kids ages 5 to 11 won't be approved until late fall at the earliest, and might not come until early next year. What's taking so long? In short, diligence on behalf of the FDA. "They don't want to miss anything, because the No. 1 thing is safety," Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA's vaccine advisory committee, tells The New York Times. Pfizer is enrolling up to 4,500 kids in its clinical trials, and Offit says the agency reviews every little detail from every single child in a clinical trial to detect any potential rare side effects. "You're giving a vaccine or placebo to thousands of children as a predictor of what's about to be given to millions of children," Offit says. "I know it seems like it should be faster, but it's a long process." 

2

How to throw a greener birthday party

For eco-conscious parents, Friday Apaliski, founder of The Sustainability Concierge, shares her tips for throwing a greener birthday party for kiddos at Mother. Such gatherings can generate a lot of unnecessary waste — from disposable utensils to ocean-clogging balloons — but they don't have to. Apaliski recommends you serve up finger food that doesn't require plates and cutlery (think cupcakes instead of cake). Instead of balloons, use a bubble machine, which can be reused every year. And speaking of reusing, skip birthday decorations that display a specific age, since they become obsolete almost immediately. Opt instead for more evergreen messaging. And if you must give goodie bags to your guests, eliminate the plastic bags and toys and give books, DIY play-doh, or a gift certificate to a local business instead. 

3

Why some kids hate school — and how to help them

We know education is inherently good for kids in the long-term. But many children find attending school not just boring, but downright unpleasant. In one 2020 survey of 21,000 high school students, roughly 75 percent of pupils' self-reported feelings about school were negative, Arthur C. Brooks writes at The Atlantic. This isn't just about the drudgery of schoolwork, he argues. It's about loneliness, which 80 percent of schoolkids face and has been linked to a multitude of negative feelings and behaviors including inactivity, boredom, and social withdrawal. "To say that loneliness can kill interest in school is not an exaggeration," Brooks says. But friendship at school can be a game-changer when it comes to increasing engagement. Parents and educators can help by focusing on facilitating in-person relationships between kids and their peers. "With more friendship, students will find greater joy and interest, which can turn misery into minor annoyance," Brooks writes.

4

Reply all in the family

You need a family email address, argues Sarah Showfety at Lifehacker. Why? Because having one inbox to catch multiple kids' messages about school, extracurricular activities, and medical appointments can "function as a way to inform both parents of processes, updates, meetings, school supply requests, etc. equally — so they can handle the attendant workload equitably." Of course, there's always the possibility that one parent will accidentally delete an important message, but you could make the system more foolproof by having family emails forwarded to your personal address as a backup. Still, sharing an email address requires good communication and "a good faith attempt to form the constructive habit of always copying your partner or co-parent on replies," Showfety says. 

5

Toddlers of the pandemic

The pandemic has dramatically changed human behavior, even in the youngest among us. Krystal Hur at The Wall Street Journal reports that many parents are seeing their toddlers develop "pandemic habits" such as an obsession with good hygiene. For example, Alba Mayorga tells Hur that at restaurants, her 1-year-old son can be found "using a napkin to thoroughly clean the table, the top of the booth behind him, and even his mother's shoulder." Medical historian Dr. Howard Markel tells the Journal behavioral changes like these are to be expected, and points out that many hygiene habits that developed during previous pandemics are still around to this day. For now, some parents are trying to make the most of a strange situation: Mayorga says her son even cleans his own high chair. But "he doesn't clean his toys." 

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