The week's best parenting advice: September 15, 2021

Establishing an after-school routine, celebrating turning 12 with a COVID shot, and more

A child eating a snack.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

1. Making afternoons easier with an after-school routine

Schools are open again, so kids are out of the house for part of the day. The trouble is, when they get home "they're spent. But your day isn't over," writes Steve Calechman at Fatherly. Parking them in front of a screen might keep them occupied for a bit, but it's hardly the healthiest solution. What they need is an after-school routine, says Jill Trumbell, assistant professor of human development and family studies at University of New Hampshire. They'll get comfort and boundaries. Start with small talk and snacks to help them reset. Offer some activity choices, but, in a pinch, a little screen time won't hurt. Be involved, but honest about the limits on your time. And be flexible. "They want a parent that's warm and open and long-fused," says psychologist Yael Schonbrun. "It creates an environment that everyone wants to be part of."


2. COVID vaccines to celebrate turning 12

Many birthdays serve as rites of passage. At 14 or 15, kids become high schoolers. At 16, they can drive. At 18, they can vote. Now, "12th birthdays have new significance," says Emma Goldberg in The New York Times. In early May, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency approval to offer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children 12 and older. Many parents view the day their kids become eligible as a day to celebrate. Zoe Tu, a Brooklyn, New York, seventh grader, got her first COVID shot on her birthday, along with her traditional dulce de leche Haagen-Dazs ice cream cake. "We're one step closer to being safer because our whole family can be vaccinated," said her mom, Nicole Tu. "It's a new chapter for us."

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The New York Times

3. The scientific way to get the most out of playtime

Children learn and hone life skills when they're playing. And playtime with mom is crucial. But play is "a lot more complex than parents believe, and there is a 'scientific' way to make sure that children are getting the most out of playtime," says Ashley Wehrli at A new paper led by Brenna Hassinger-Das, an assistant professor of psychology at Pace University-NYX, offers a short list of playtime "pillars" to help make the most of every minute. The first, and possibly most important one, is to be present and connected when playing with your kid. "The world is a busy place out there for moms, and it can seem like her mind is in a million places at a time," writes Wehrli. "However, the best way to maximize playtime with your child is to be engaged."

4. Talking to your kids about illness

There's no easy way to tell your child you are seriously ill. Tracey Baptiste writes at that she and her husband hid her breast cancer diagnosis from their 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter for months. "I felt I was protecting them from a hard conversation, from something scary," Baptiste says. But they knew something was wrong. Finally, her son asked, "Mama, are you going to die?" She told him, "No, of course not." When she started chemo and lost her hair, "The jig was up," Baptiste writes. When her children learned the truth, they were relieved to know what was going on, Baptiste says, and full of questions and support. "It was easier to be truthful with them," Baptiste says. "It was easier to have them on board with their help and their opinions."

5. Lose your temper? Try a family 'do-over'

Sometimes parents and kids clash. A fight over homework can lead to frustration, shouting, hurt feelings, and regret. "One great way to course correct when you see a collision coming, or when you find yourself sitting in a pile of emotional wreckage, is to ask for a 'Do-Over,'" says Dr. Laura Markham at Aha! Parenting. The first step when things go wrong is to "just stop." Breathe. If you're the one who lost your cool, apologize. Hug it out. Cut yourself some slack, and try again. You might even set a family signal your children can use, so the next time you start raising your voice they can suggest it's time to press reset. "Do-Overs can be the perfect way to repair when you're off track. Do-Overs acknowledge that we aren't perfect -- but we're family, and we'll always work things out."

Aha! Parenting

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