The week's best parenting advice: February 8, 2022

Toddler vaccines revisited, a bourbon taster's advice for talking to kids about alcohol, and more

A vaccination card.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

1. Toddler vaccines revisited

Last week, Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, requested emergency authorization of a two-dose coronavirus vaccine for children younger than 5, even though the vaccine failed to produce an adequate immune response among 2- to 4-year-olds during clinical trials. Although the request seems questionable, the FDA encouraged the companies to make it, and it's not entirely unreasonable, writes Jessica Grose in The New York Times. The two-dose vaccine did provide some benefit to young trial participants, reducing the risk of infection by about 57 percent in children 2 to 4 years old and 50 percent in children 6 months to 2 years old. "COVID vaccine efficacy is not a binary "works" or "doesn't work" — it's looking more like an ascending scale of protection," writes Grose. So two doses might not provide ideal protection, but it's a start.

The New York Times NPR

2. A bourbon taster's advice for talking to kids about alcohol

As a bourbon critic, historian, and entertainer, there is alcohol on practically every shelf in Fred Minnick's home, making it all but impossible to hide from his young kids. Instead, "understanding the true meaning of responsible alcohol consumption and respecting the history, legacy, and creation of bourbon" is core not only to his career, but to his parenting style, Minnick writes in Parents. When one of his sons asks for a sip of bourbon, Minnick and his wife talk to them about how the brain works and why it's important not to drink before it's fully developed. They also regularly talk about the physiological, legal, and emotional ramifications of alcohol abuse. Minnick recommends starting the conversations as early as possible and repeating them often. And although Minnick and his wife often drink in front of their children, they never get drunk, thereby setting a positive example of responsible alcohol consumption.

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3. How to help your kids kick the nail-biting habit

Somewhere between 30 percent and 60 percent of kids bite their nails, and it's usually not something parents need to worry about, writes Sarah Showfety in Lifehacker. But if you're hoping to help your child kick the habit, avoid calling negative attention to it, which will only make it worse. You won't get anywhere without their buy-in, so discuss it "calmly and neutrally, with an observation or question." Once the child expresses an interest in quitting, try offering them ways to keep their fingers busy, such as a smooth "worry stone" to rub or a fidget spinner. Establish a subtle code word or signal to let them know they're biting. Make a chart to track days they manage to avoid chewing their nails and reward them with cash, a manicure, or other prizes for successful streaks. And if your child is up for it, coat their nails in a terrible-tasting nail polish.


4. Raising kids who can tell fact from fiction

Misinformation is rampant online, so it's important that children learn to recognize unreliable information sources — but that isn't easy, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer. When it comes to media literacy, "there's been little rigorous research on what truly works," Moyer writes. And pushing kids to think critically can backfire if they become too cynical to trust any information. Parents should encourage kids to ask questions about the media they consume and claims they hear, even if there aren't clear answers. You can also introduce kids to lateral reading, a method used by journalism fact-checkers to vet sources. Instead of navigating within a website to assess its validity, fact-checkers see what other trustworthy sources of information say about the site in question. And it's important to teach kids that search engines and news feeds are designed to give them what they want, making it easy to fall prey to confirmation bias.

Melinda Wenner Moyer

5. Talking to kids about serious illness

Parents that fall seriously ill are often tempted to keep it a secret from their kids, but that's misguided, writes Suzie Glassman in Parents. Kids are observant and will come up with explanations for strange behavior that may be worse than the truth. "Anxiety decreases when kids are told accurate and developmentally-appropriate information about what's going on with their loved ones," says pediatric psychologist Amanda Thompson. For young kids, focus on concrete details about the illness and how it will impact the parent's behavior. For older kids, don't shy away from big words like "oncologist," and give them space to ask questions, even if they don't want many details. Although hospital visits can be daunting, it's helpful for children to meet the people caring for their parent. And when it comes to conversations about death, stay away from euphemisms like "passed away" or "gone to sleep," which can confuse kids.


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