The week's best parenting advice: December 21, 2021
Managing a baby's germ exposure amid COVID, the case for crying it out, and more
Managing a baby's germ exposure amid COVID
It can be tricky to figure out how much to limit a newborn's exposure to germs, writes Emily Oster on Substack, especially during a pandemic. While babies can get COVID, their risk of becoming seriously ill from it is about on par with other diseases, so it makes sense to calculate risk in the same way. Most doctors suggest limiting exposure during a baby's first couple of months, in part because they are more vulnerable to serious complications, but also because medical protocols for a sick 2-week-old are much more aggressive than for, say, a 6-month-old. But that doesn't mean you need to isolate yourselves entirely. Just lay some ground rules: no sick visitors; frequent hand-washing; vaccines for COVID, the flu, and Tdap; and rapid testing for COVID. And it probably makes sense to limit visitors to only close family and friends in the first few weeks.
The case for crying it out
As parenting tactics go, "crying it out" (CIO) is as controversial as it gets, but it shouldn't be, writes Miranda Rake in Romper. CIO is typically associated with Dr. Marc Weissbluth's "full extinction" method, in which you "put your baby to bed fed, changed, and drowsy; say goodnight; and don't go back in until morning." The idea sounds cold-hearted, but many doctors consider it safe after 16 weeks — and a lot of the time, it works. There are, of course, gentler methods, but regardless of what you call it, teaching your child to sleep will very likely involve some version of CIO. "The big secret that expensive sleep consultants and certain social media sleep mavens would like you to spend hundreds of dollars learning is that you are eventually, most likely, going to need to leave your baby alone at night to cry themselves to sleep," Rake writes.
Bad behavior may be a sign of good parenting
Can a child's bad behavior be a sign of good parenting? Surprisingly, yes, argues Melinda Wenner Moyer in The New York Times. Parenting has become more child-centered and less punitive over the past couple of decades, and as a result, many children are more assertive, opinionated, or even argumentative around adults. But according to child psychologists, that's a good thing. "When kids talk back or are defiant or sassy, that typically means that they feel loved and safe," Moyer writes. Rigid obedience, meanwhile, is often driven by fear. And fear-based authoritarian parenting puts kids at increased risk for things like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. "Yes, kids' challenging behavior can be annoying as hell," Moyer says, "but sometimes it means we're actually doing things right."
Test-to-stay programs show promising results
So-called "test-to-stay" programs are a safe way of keeping unvaccinated children in school, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typically, students who come into close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus are sent home to quarantine for two weeks. But some school districts have implemented programs that allow students to test out of quarantine, with promising results. In Los Angeles County, for example, test-to-stay programs were rolled out in about half of the county's 78 school districts — without increasing transmission. And while students in schools using quarantine lost more than 92,000 in-person school days, students in test-to-stay programs lost none. The CDC has yet to update its formal guidance to schools to recommend a switch to test-to-stay, but the new evidence is an encouraging sign that major school disruptions may soon be a thing of the past.
Preparing for holiday meltdowns
If your kid acts out more around the holidays, you are not alone, writes Katie McPherson in Romper. This time of year is often packed with fun activities and new experiences, and "while these things can be fun and exciting, they can also cause breaks in routine, disrupt predictability, and increase dysregulation — or meltdowns," says pediatric psychologist Melissa Buchholz. If you want to minimize meltdowns over the next few weeks, try to maintain some predictability, especially around mealtimes, nutrition, and sleep, and limit the number of behavioral expectations (think: sitting still in church or at a restaurant) you ask for in one day. And if there's no way to avoid a major routine disruption, give your child a heads up. "It can be very helpful to prep children for what they can expect when something is out of routine," says Buchholz.