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

Answering your kids' questions about Russia and Ukraine, talking to teens about dating violence, and more

A girl.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

1. Answering your kids' questions about Russia and Ukraine

If your child asks you questions about what's going on in Ukraine, ask them what they've heard, which will provide context for your response, writes Meghan Moravcik Walbert in Lifehacker. For the littlest kids, start with the "barebones basics" — soldiers are in place they aren't supposed to be, which has upset some people. Then reassure kids that they are safe and answer any follow-up questions with simple, clear explanations. For tweens, it may also be worthwhile to show them Russia and Ukraine on a world map, which can help them understand their proximity to the conflict, and then continue the conversation during the weeks ahead. For teenagers, who have almost certainly heard about the invasion on social media or at school, focus on equipping them with accurate information and helping them seek out reliable answers to questions. "First and foremost, remember to be calm and be honest," Walbert writes.


2. Talking to teens about dating violence

Over two-thirds of teens experienced psychological, sexual, or physical abuse in the last year, so it's important for parents to talk about dating violence with their kids, writes Lauren Krouse in Parents. Starting in middle school, educate your children about relationship red flags, such as intense jealousy, passionate fighting, or excessive displays of affection. Model boundary-setting by knocking before entering your child's room, and asking for a hug rather than demanding one. And instead of waiting for a relationship to reach crisis levels to ask about it, make a practice of talking with your child about the need to balance their individual goals with a partner's. If you spot abusive behaviors in your teen's relationship, "be clear and firm that they don't deserve to be treated or controlled in that way," says Krouse, and contact your local advocacy center for help.

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3. Don't give melatonin to your kids

The pandemic made getting children to sleep more difficult, and sales data suggests that desperate parents are turning to melatonin for help, writes Haley Weiss in Fatherly. But there is no research on how the pill affects kids, and the dietary supplement receives little regulatory oversight. One study analyzing melatonin supplements found that over two-thirds contained a dose of the active ingredient that over- or under-shot the amount stated on the label by 10 percent or more. And while there's little immediate risk of a child ingesting too much melatonin, which will only cause grogginess, there could be unknown effects of long-term usage. Plus, most sleep issues in children are rooted in behavioral or sleep hygiene problems that don't require hormonal solutions. So while melatonin can be helpful for kids with autism, ADHD, and circadian rhythm disorders, parents should consult a doctor before giving it a try.


4. Positive parenting can reduce obesity

Discussions about childhood obesity usually focus on common risks such as a poor diet or a family history of obesity, but a new study suggests that a supportive family environment may outweigh some of those other factors, reports Science Daily. Analyzing data from over 1,000 mother-child pairs, the researchers found that children's early exposures to family psychosocial assets, including a quality home environment, emotional warmth from their mother, and the ability to self-regulate, reduced the risk of developing childhood obesity — even among children at risk of obesity due to poverty, maternal depression, or residence in a single-parent home. "It is heartening to know that, by providing a loving, safe environment, we can reduce the risk that children will develop obesity," said Brandi Rollins, assistant research professor of biobehavioral health and co-author of the study.

Science Daily

5. How to spot an ear infection

It's common for young children to develop ear infections, often while recovering from a cold, but they can be tricky to spot, writes Jessica Booth in Romper. These infections typically cause pain in or around the ear, so take note if your child is tugging, rubbing, or holding it. Other symptoms include irritability, difficulty sleeping, fever, loss of balance, and trouble hearing. Occasionally, ear infections cause a sore throat, or digestive issues, such as an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. "If you notice a bump below the affected ear, don't be alarmed," writes Booth. "This is more than likely just the lymph nodes swelling in response to the infection." But if blood or pus drains from the ear, it's possible the eardrum has ruptured, in which case you should call your pediatrician or go to an urgent care immediately.


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