The week's best parenting advice: March 29, 2022
How to parent from a distance, the struggle of raising a child who's just like you, and more
How to parent from a distance
Learning to parent from a distance is tricky, writes Jeff Bogle in Good Housekeeping. When Bogle divorced and went from seeing his daughters every day to every other week, he was tempted to act more like a "fun uncle" than a parent during their limited time together. But that approach makes life difficult for the other parent and deprives kids of the "full, complex and special relationship they deserve to have with both of their parents," says parenting expert Deborah Gilboa. Long-distance parents should make sure to stay in contact with their kids every single day and avoid undercutting their co-parent's authority. And "when the kids behave poorly during their brief time with you, do not blow it off," said Gilboa. "Not addressing the issues you're facing together feels lazy, or like you've checked out on them and their lives."
The struggle of raising a child who's just like you
Raising a child with a personality that reflects your own can be strangely unnerving, writes Jessica Grose in the New York Times. But it's important to remember that although you and your child may be similar, you aren't identical, nor are the circumstances of your respective childhoods. So although it may indeed be painful to watch your child endure pain you endured, check your assumption that your child's struggles will match your own. In reality, your children will inevitably have troubles, some big and some small, and some entirely unlike those you've experienced. "This is perhaps the key part of parenting as your children get older — letting them grow away from you, and accepting that their happiness is not completely within your command," writes Grose. "I have endured, and I have to have faith that my daughter will, too."
It's normal for teens to drift away
The Pixar movie Turning Red has made waves lately for its reference to periods, depiction of teen rebellion, and focus on Asian characters. But the movie also offers a poignant reminder that teens and tweens tend to pull away from their parents, and though painful, that's okay, writes Christine Koh in The Washington Post. "A key milestone for teens is the shift from relying exclusively or largely on parents and family members to turning to peers," Scott Hadland, chief of adolescent medicine at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, told Koh. Parents struggling with this period of time should remind themselves that they likely did the same thing as teenagers, and then try to set expectations based on the biological reality of the child's changing brain. Instead of fixating on outcomes, focus on respectfully supporting your teen during the messy process of building meaningful relationships and figuring out how to contribute to the world.
When it comes to maternal depression, nurture trumps nature
Children of mothers with clinical depression are more likely to develop depression themselves, but a new study suggests that the heightened risk may be driven by social factors, rather than biology, Science Daily reports. Observing the brain activity of a group of 49 children aged 6 to 8, half of whom had mothers with a history of clinical depression, researchers found that "children with a maternal history of depression were more likely to have reduced reward-related brain activity … but only if their mothers reported less enthusiastic and more dampening responses to their children's positive emotions." In other words, the mother's history of depression only contributed to brain alterations to the extent that it affected their parenting behavior. "This is hopeful news as interventions geared at coaching parents to encourage positive emotions in their children may have a powerful impact on child reward-related development," said lead author Judith Morgan.
Teen and tween screen time skyrocketed during the pandemic
Screen use among teens and tweens increased by 17 percent between 2019 and 2021, a larger increase than the four years prior, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer in The New York Times. Parents trying to curb adolescent screen use should "ask kids to analyze how they spend their time over the course of a single day," and then create a bucket list of things they'd do if screens didn't exist and suggest a 24-hour vacation from screens to check off some of those items. Work with your kids to draw up a "technology agreement" that sets ground rules for screen use. Have frank discussions with your kids about screens and social media, and where possible, "get online with them…" said Diana Graber, the founder of technology safety website Cyberwise. "Just like you would watch out for them on the corner or at the park, you watch out for them online."