The week's best parenting advice: January 25, 2022
The truth about kids, diabetes and COVID-19, why you should teach your child to be lazy, and more
The truth about kids, diabetes, and COVID-19
Earlier this month, the CDC released a study suggesting that kids who've had COVID-19 are at a heightened risk for developing diabetes. And although the findings were widely reported in the media, parents shouldn't worry too much, writes Emily Oster in ParentData. The analysis did show a higher incidence of diabetes diagnoses among kids who recovered from COVID-19 than those in the control group, but the researchers weren't able to control for things like BMI, or socioeconomic status. It's also possible that children's increased interaction with the medical system due to COVID-19 is what prompted their diagnosis. Many researchers have questioned why the study was published despite these limitations, and Oster doesn't have an answer. "What I can say is that the paper is deeply flawed, and if you are worrying about it, you should stop," Oster writes.
Why you should teach your kids to be lazy
Before Elliot Kukla's child was born, he was afraid the chronic fatigue caused by lupus would make it hard to be a good parent. "What I didn't anticipate is that prioritizing rest, sleep, and dreaming is also something tangible I can offer my child," he writes in The New York Times. After all, he argues, many Americans are overworked, burned out, and struggle to take breaks. Maybe we should push back on the work ethic embedded in American life and stop "shunning laziness." Of course, that would require modeling laziness to our kids. For Kukla, that means lying under a giant pile of blankets and pretending to be a hill, or building "elaborate nests" of pillows and gazing out the window together. "I have seen the limits of the grind. I want my child to learn how to be lazy," Kukla writes.
What saliva means to babies
A new study suggests that babies rely on one major clue to determine whether two people care for each other: saliva. Researchers found that babies expect people who kiss or share food to come to one another's aid more than those who share toys or interact in other ways. In the study, toddlers and babies watched interactions between human actors and puppets, where the puppet shared an orange with one actor and then tossed a ball back and forth with another. Later, when the puppet showed distress, children were more likely to look toward the actor who had shared food with the puppet, suggesting the babies expected them to offer help. According to MIT postdoc and lead author Ashley Thomas, babies may be trying to distinguish between different types of relationships in order to figure out who they can rely on to survive.
Your kid's existential dread is normal
If your child is asking you grim existential questions right now, you're not alone, writes Jessica Grose in The New York Times. And while there's no doubt that the ongoing pandemic may play a role in our kids' anxieties, experts say philosophical musings are a normal part of childhood development. During the "formal operational stage," which seems to begin around age 11 or earlier, children "consider multiple possibilities and test them against each other," said clinical associate professor of child and family studies Sally Beville Hunter. So-called "role confusion" may also play a role. "This is the first time when kids have questions about their own existence, questions about self-identity, the meaning of life and the changing role of authority," Hunter said. Grose herself remembers lying awake at night as a child worrying about nuclear winter. In other words, "existential questioning isn't unique to children living through a pandemic."
Are pandemic babies really developing more slowly?
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that babies born during the early pandemic are developing more slowly than babies born before the pandemic, but parents should take these findings with a grain of salt, writes Sarah Cottrell in Parents. "It's a very small sample, taken from a very specific health system in New York City, taken during a very limited time period," said epidemiology professor Mollie Wood. And while "it is common sense that with less stimulation, babies will develop slower," that doesn't mean that babies lagging in some areas can't catch up, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten. Plus, the study also showed that communication skills were higher in pandemic babies — so don't panic. And if you are concerned that your baby is lagging developmentally, "always feel empowered to call your pediatrician to ask for your child to be screened," Cottrell writes.