The week's best parenting advice: January 4, 2022
COVID risks for young children, the unreliability of prenatal testing, and more
COVID risks for young children
As the Omicron variant surges across the country, nervous parents of unvaccinated children under 5 should turn to data for reassurance, writes Emily Oster on Substack. The 0 to 4 age group is consistently among the groups with the lowest case rates, despite the fact that it is the least vaccinated. And although the hospitalization rate for that group is higher than it is for children between ages 5 and 11, it's lower than all other groups. All told, for children under 5 without comorbidities who get COVID, the risk of hospitalization is about one in 120. By comparison, the risk of hospitalization for the flu among children in that age group is around one in 140. "Low risk is not no risk," she admits, but "based on everything we know, the risks to small children from COVID-19 are extremely small."
Many prenatal tests are unreliable
Many companies claim that non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) can accurately detect serious developmental problems in fetal DNA, but according to a recent investigation by Sarah Kliff and Aatish Bhatia in The New York Times, the tests are often wrong. NIPT can detect Down syndrome with high accuracy, but manufacturers typically offer additional screenings for much rarer conditions that are sometimes caused by small missing pieces of chromosomes called microdeletions and can cause things like intellectual disability, heart defects, shortened life span, or infant mortality. Analyzing how well the five most common microdeletion tests perform, the investigation found that positive results on those tests turn out to be wrong about 85 percent of the time. "Nonetheless, on product brochures and test result sheets, companies describe the tests to pregnant women and their doctors as near certain," Kliff and Bhatia write.
Roughhousing is good for kids
It can be nerve wracking to watch children roughhouse, but according to experts, it's actually good for them, writes Jessica Wozinsky Fleming in The Washington Post. Play fighting can help children access a sense of inner power that will help them control their impulses, speak their mind, and set healthy boundaries. It's also an opportunity for physical touch, which decreases stress, boosts the immune system, and is important to the development of language, physicality, and social and emotional skills. According to one 2020 study, children who roughhouse with their fathers are better able to control their emotions and less likely to have behavioral problems. Of course, roughhousing can quickly get out of hand, which makes it important to ensure that all parties are having fun. "At the first 'I'm done' or 'stop,' the game needs to be over," says licensed clinical social worker and family coach Catherine Pearlman.
When to get the COVID vaccine during pregnancy
The best time for pregnant people to get vaccinated against COVID is right now, writes Morgan Brinlee in Romper. In a new study, researchers examined blood and umbilical cord samples from 1,359 pregnant patients in order to measure the levels of antibodies to the virus present in women's blood by the time they gave birth. "While antibody levels did differ to some degree, with those who received a vaccine or booster early in the third trimester of pregnancy having the highest levels, the results weren't dramatic enough for researchers to conclude there was a benefit to delaying vaccination," writes Brinlee. That said, babies born to fully vaccinated people had similar or higher antibody levels than those born to people who were not fully vaccinated ahead of their delivery. In other words, the most important thing is to make sure you are fully vaccinated (and boosted, if possible) before giving birth.
How to raise a less materialistic child
Kids love stuff — who doesn't? — but there are ways to steer children in a less materialistic direction, writes Hiranmayi Srinivasan in Parents. The simplest strategy is to teach your kids about money: where it comes from, why you need it, and how to save and spend it in a mindful manner. As always, it's best to lead by example, both in practicing mindful spending as well as being grateful for all that you have — material or not. And while letting children do chores to earn an allowance can help them learn basic money management, it's not wise to use money or gifts to reward good behavior all the time. Instead, "use affirming words and actions to show your kids that you love them and are proud of them — it can go a long way and help them value the important things in life that money can't buy," Srinivasan writes.