The week's best parenting advice: February 1, 2022

How to think about rising pediatric hospitalizations, the case against school masking, and more

A sick boy.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

1. How to think about rising pediatric hospitalizations

The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen in recent weeks, mainly because "Omicron is infecting a lot more people," writes Marla Broadfoot in Scientific American. There's no reason to think that recent cases are more severe than those caused by previous variants (in fact, preliminary evidence suggests the opposite), but because the virus carries a small risk of hospitalization in kids, a huge increase in cases inevitably means more hospitalizations. Plus, Omicron is very good at replicating in human airways, making it tough on young children whose narrow airways are more easily obstructed by mucus and inflammation, which can cause wheezing or a barking cough. The good news is that "these are classic syndromes of childhood, and we are pretty adept at taking care of them," says Susan Coffin, an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Scientific American

2. The case against school masking

The CDC's school masking guidelines advise that all students age 2 and older wear face masks. But mounting evidence suggests this recommendation, which is much broader than the World Health Organization's or the European CDC's, is unjustified, writes infectious disease expert Margery Smelkinson in The Atlantic. The few studies suggesting that schools with mask mandates have lower transmission rates than others did not control for important factors, such as staff or community vaccination rates. Other studies found masking children has no significant effect. Meanwhile, there's reason to believe masking may hinder speech and emotion recognition, and language development, especially for children with cognitive delays, speech and hearing issues, and autism. "Imposing on millions of children an intervention that provides little discernible benefit, on the grounds that we have not yet gathered solid evidence of its negative effects, violates the most basic tenet of medicine: First, do no harm," Smelkinson writes.

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The Atlantic

3. How to get your kids out the door without rushing them

Getting children out the door in the morning is notoriously difficult, but "rushing them will only cause more stress, anxiety, power struggles, and anger," writes Sarah Showfety in Lifehacker. Work with the child to build a simple morning schedule, and then prep the environment by tucking away distractions and putting everything the child needs for the day on a cubby or shelf they can reach themselves. Try to remember kids crave autonomy, so shoot for a collaborative, rather than authoritative, approach to the process. Avoid barking orders and instead ask guiding questions, such as "OK, what's next?" or "Would you like to put on your coat or shoes next?" And if things start to get dicey, Showfety recommends pressing the "reset" button, "which consists of stopping, making eye contact, pressing our index fingers together, and taking a moment to stop the head-butting path we're going down and start fresh."


4. What to do if your teens are bickering at the dinner table

If your family dinners have taken an unpleasant turn lately, you're not alone, writes Meghan Leahy in The Washington Post. In the boredom and claustrophobia of another pandemic winter, bickering is practically inevitable for frustrated teens. Leahy advises parents to "zoom out … and refocus on what we parents can control, which is precious little." You probably can't keep your kids from fighting, but you can help keep them occupied, and "busy and purposeful teens and young adults fight with one another less." Find a realistic way to enlist them in meal planning, getting groceries, making food, and cleaning up. If that means lowering your standards a bit — maybe try family TV dinners for a while — that's fine. Finally, spend some time with each kid planning something for them to look forward to, however small. "People need hope, and we like to look forward to something, even if it's distant," Leahy writes.

The Washington Post

5. Why Wordle is perfect for parents

If you spend any time on Twitter, you're probably familiar with Wordle, the online game in which players attempt to guess a daily word in six tries. Many people find the game — or rather, the people posting their scores on social media — annoying, but Jamie Kenney swears it's the perfect game for parents because it asks so little of us. "In one to six tries, you've either guessed the Wordle or not … And that's it until tomorrow. No. Really." There are no ads or upgraded versions that allow you to play more than once a day. In other words, the game offers busy parents a low-stakes diversion that doesn't threaten to deplete our time, energy, or attention span. "I appreciate the small joy of a little morning ritual that isn't mindless, but … won't fall apart if I forget about it for 23 hours and 50 minutes a day," writes Kenney.


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