The week's best parenting advice: October 19, 2021
COVID exposure in kids, TikTok and tics in teens, and more
When your kid is a COVID contact
With school back in session and COVID-19 still circulating, there's a decent chance your child will be exposed to the virus in the classroom. That might seem like a scary reality, but accepting it means you can prepare for it. Have a backup plan for things like childcare and remote work, so everyone — including your child — knows what to expect. "Reviewing these plans with your child may help them feel a sense that things are under control," writes Perri Klass, M.D., at The New York Times. Be frank with your kiddo about the possibility of exposure, and normalize any feelings they have about missing school. Remember that, especially for older children, "it may not be the worry of getting sick, it may be the worry of missing tryouts for that sports team," psychologist Melissa Cousino tells the Times. If your child is especially fearful of getting ill, remind them that "for the most part, children have only mild illness with COVID-19, if they have any symptoms at all," Klass says.
Hide-and-seek. Tag. Squid Game?
Netflix's hit show Squid Game has reportedly infiltrated the playground. Children and educators alike say kids are designing their own recess versions of the "ultraviolent" show, which features characters battling to the death for a cash prize. Is this cause for concern? The most worrying aspect of these reports is that very young children seem to be watching a show marketed for kids older than 15. "These images have the potential to desensitize people to violence," Damon Korb, clinic director of Center for Developing Minds in Los Gatos, California, tells The Washington Post. "Children are particularly vulnerable." But as for the playground games, try not to worry too much. "Let's stop for a minute and think about our own days of playground roulette," says Whit Honey at the Post. Red rover, for example, probably seems dangerous in hindsight, "but back when we were kids? It was glorious."
Is TikTok giving teens Tourettes?
Doctors have noticed a growing number of teen girls developing tics — jerking movements and loud outbursts — after spending time on TikTok, The Wall Street Journal reports. What's going on? In most of the cases, the affected patients have previously been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and one theory is that these disorders have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Seeking community, the teens head to TikTok, where users who claim to have Tourettes post videos of their own tics. Because "physical symptoms of psychological stress often manifest in ways that patients have seen before in others," the Journal reports, it's possible these videos are triggering tics in some viewers. If parents notice this behavior in their teen, doctors suggest they avoid overreacting to the outbursts. "Don't give them the attention," says neurologist Donald Gilbert. "It doesn't stop it, it feeds into it." Parents should encourage a TikTok break, at least for several weeks, and seek expert help if necessary.
How young is too young for a haunted house?
Halloween is approaching, and parents may be wondering if it's appropriate to take their children to their first haunted house. Unfortunately, "it's not like 'ready to go into a haunted house' is a developmental milestone," clinical psychologist Heather Bernstein tells Lifehacker. But you can use your best judgment about whether the experience will leave your kid thrilled or terrified. Parents should do their research into just how scary a particular attraction is. Call and inquire about the age recommendation. If your child is game and you decide to buy them a ticket, go in with them. But what if they chicken out right at the last minute? "If you know it's something they really want to do, and they'll be really disappointed afterwards if they don't do it, then maybe you can coach them and say something like, 'We'll go in, but we can alway leave,' or 'We'll go in, and I'm going to hold your hand the whole time,'" Bernstein says.
Good kids, bad words
Has your kid started swearing yet? It's bound to happen at some point. How should you react? First, know that swearing is normal kid behavior. "Learning how to swear and expressing yourself emotionally is a natural, normal, common, everyday experience," psychologist Timothy Jay tells Melinda Wenner Moyer at Is My Kid the A--hole? In fact, the average 4-year-old knows about 40 "taboo" words. When they inevitably put them to use, avoid freaking out. "By making an emotional issue out of this, you, the parents or caregivers, have given this emotional currency," Jay says. Instead, try explaining when and where swear words are appropriate and where they are not. "Ultimately, the goal isn't to eliminate these words from your kid's vocabulary — you can't — but rather to help them understand social etiquette," Wenner Moyer says.