Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: November 2, 2021

Prepping kids for vaccines, an 'off-ramp' for masking, and more

1

Prepping kids for vaccines

The federal vaccination program for children ages 5 to 11 will be fully operational on Nov. 8, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday. The Food and Drug Administration signed off Friday on emergency-use authorization for coronavirus vaccines for kids in that age group, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's leadership is expected to give the final go-ahead. If your child is freaked out by shots, Nia Heard-Garris, M.D. suggests exposing them to needles "starting a few weeks before their appointment." This could be done through reading relevant books or even by bringing them along to a vaccination appointment for mom or dad. Book their appointment for a time when stress levels are likely to be low. And if all else fails, try good, old-fashioned distraction, which has been proven "effective in reducing distress and pain related to needles," Heard-Garris tells The New York Times.

2

An off-ramp for masking

Now that vaccines for younger kids are getting the go-ahead, it's time to talk about "an off-ramp for masking at school," argues The New York Times' Jessica Grose. Most experts she spoke to agree. "It makes most sense to me to lift mask mandates in schools (and for adults) once children have the ability to get both doses of the vaccine," Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, tells Grose. When exactly the masks should come off is a matter of debate, but many experts back a model that lets states decide based on local transmission rates. While the details are murky, talking about off-ramps for masking can hopefully give stressed-out parents "hope for a more certain future," Grose says. "My hope is that we can start to approach these discussions with less rancor and more empathy, and acknowledge that often there is no absolute right answer."

3

Enough with the climate doom and gloom

There's no denying climate change is one of humanity's greatest challenges, writes Hannah Ritchie, a senior researcher at Oxford University's Martin School and the Head of Research at Our World in Data. But we must "stop telling our children that they're going to die from climate change. It's not only cruel, it might actually make it more likely to come true." This messaging breeds pessimism, which is bad for kids' mental health, but also hopelessness. And there are many reasons for hope, including the ongoing collapse of coal and the rise of renewables. It's true that progress is slow, but it is happening, and will pick up speed. "We need a new message for climate change. One that drives action through optimism that things can be better. ... This would be much more effective at driving real change, and would save a lot of mental strife in the process."

4

A 'bird's-eye view' of religion

It's important to teach children about the world's many religions, even those with beliefs that differ from your own, writes Kristen Mei Chase at The Washington Post. Exposing kids to "a bird's-eye view of what religion is and how it functions in our society helps them learn respect for other peoples' behaviors and choices," adds Kathryn Blanchard, professor of religious studies, emerita, at Alma College in Michigan. Parents can facilitate this learning in a few ways. Take your child to see various houses of worship, like synagogues, churches, and mosques. Discuss specific practices of different religions, and read books and watch movies or TV shows that feature them. But "if you're tempted to dive into a huge religion lecture when your kids ask questions, skip it," Mei Chase says. "Just give them what they're asking for, then offer to spend time with them researching the topic online or finding a book or video about it."

5

The true cost of cavities

A startling new finding reveals just how common cavities are in children. The survey (conducted, notably, by Colgate) of more than 20,000 U.S. parents found that 62 percent of children have tooth decay, and that cavities cause emotional distress in kids, leaving them embarrassed and anxious. "Cavities remain the most common chronic disease among children globally," says Colgate's chief clinical officer, Dr. Maria Ryan. But kids' cavities also affect parental wellbeing: Sixty-seven percent of parents surveyed said they feel ashamed about their kids' oral health problems, 50 percent experience worry, and 42 percent feel like they've failed when their kids get a cavity. Not to mention the financial toll of paying for dental care and the productivity costs of missing out on work to look after a recovering child. "Research groups are calling for cavities to be seen as a public health crisis, and that things be changed to make this easier on children and their families," reports Moms.com. 

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