The week's best parenting advice: December 7, 2021
The power of awe, surviving the toddler screaming phase, and more.
The power of awe
Awe is an underrated emotion, and there's plenty of research to prove it, writes Deborah Farmer Kris in The Washington Post. A number of studies suggest that encountering something vast or wondrous can benefit our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. "It makes us curious rather than judgmental. It makes us collaborative. It makes us humble, sharing, and altruistic. It quiets the ego so that you're not thinking about yourself as much" says psychologist Dacher Keltner. Unfortunately, highly structured modern childhood is poorly set up for awe. Parents hoping to inspire awe in their kids should allow them unstructured time to slow down and "allow for mystery and open questions rather than test-driven answers." Finding awe can be as simple as noticing patterns in music or nature, engaging in rituals that make kids "feel as if they're a part of something larger than themselves," or witnessing other people's kindness and courage.
Surviving the toddler screaming phase
Toddlers scream for a lot of different reasons — attention, frustration, excitement, you name it. Unfortunately, screaming back will only make things worse, writes Sarah Showfety in Lifehacker. But there are some steps you can take to help children learn to manage their voice, such as letting them practice singing songs at different volumes, or seeing who can "whisper the best." Another tactic is to interpret "inside voice" literally and accompany your toddler outside whenever they scream, saying something along the lines of, "Oh, you want to use your outside voice? Let's go outside so you can scream." Regardless of what emotion is driving the screaming, speaking to them at eye level and validating what they're feeling is always a good idea. And while the standard advice is not to give in to a screaming toddler's demands, it may be worth acquiescing if they manage to repeat their request in a "nice voice."
It's okay to complain about parenting, even if you struggled with infertility
For parents who struggled through infertility and loss before having their children, complaining about parenthood comes with an added layer of guilt, writes Danna Lorch in The New York Times. But according to psychiatrist Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, "it is 100 percent normal to feel conflicted about parenthood even if you went through hell to become a parent." Every parent needs someone to commiserate with when parenting gets tough, which makes it important for those who've struggled to have kids to "seek out friends who provide that mental safe space." For Lorch, that's a fellow mom who also experienced infertility. "I can hold it all," she writes, "the jagged grief that never really went away after a fourth miscarriage, the amazement of watching my son climb to the top of the jungle gym that first time, and the cheerlessness of rushing to the morning school bus in the November frost."
How to find a therapist for your child
Finding a good therapist for your child may seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be, says Megan Collins in Parents. Start by asking for recommendations from your child's pediatrician, fellow parents, or even local parenting Facebook groups. Then ask your insurance provider for a list of covered children's mental health providers in your area and set up consultations with a few in order to gauge whether they are a good fit for both you and your child. "Building the level of trust between the parent and the therapist is key," says psychologist Jill Emanuele. Once therapy is underway, observe your child's response. Take note if they seem "rattled" or refuse to attend, and then talk to the therapist. "If the therapist is not responding to your questions and concerns in a productive problem-solving manner, that could be a good indicator that it is time to move on," says Emanuele.
Gift-giving isn't just for adults
Practically since her children were born, Jen McGuire has insisted they participate in holiday gift-giving — and she doesn't regret it. "I wanted them to think about me, even a little. I wanted them to experience the unfettered joy of watching someone you love open a gift from you and see their delight, the relief found there," she explained in an essay in Romper. When her kids were very young, she gave them money to buy small presents, or they made presents at school. Later, they pooled money from their after-school jobs to buy her a hat or a journal. The tradition has served as a welcome annual reminder that she isn't a "shapeless, voiceless blob in the kitchen," and even helped ease tension during her kids' moody teenage years, McGuire says. "These gifts were our way back to each other, small and insignificant as they might have seemed."