Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: April 5, 2022

This is the year for teens to get a summer job, what to do about night terrors, and more

1

This is the year for teens to get a summer job

The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but especially for teens. "Biologically, adolescents are not designed to hunker down at home," writes Anna Nordberg in The Washington Post. Teenagers are hardwired to crave novelty and independence, and a summer job is a great way to satisfy that desire. Not only will working for pay provide them with some financial independence, but navigating the dynamics of a job can help them grow. "Answering to a grown-up who is not their parent or dealing with a co-worker whom they may not like — those are experiences that can build a new skill set," writes Nordberg. And engaging with supervisors, coworkers, or customers can help teens build confidence. Just make sure it's a job that gets them out of the house and — if possible — into nature, which can help satisfy a teen's developmentally appropriate desire for excitement and risk.

2

What to do about night terrors

If you've ever rushed into a screaming child's room at night only to find them utterly inconsolable, you're not alone. Night terrors are quite common among children, writes Emily Oster in ParentData. Unfortunately, there is little a parent can do to calm a child down during a night terror — in fact, intervening can actually make things worse, especially in older children. Usually, the child will fall back asleep on their own and wake up the next morning with no memory of the event. While there is a strong genetic component to how frequently a child has night terrors, sleep deprivation, illness, and caffeine consumption can all put kids at a higher risk. Most children outgrow night terrors on their own, but if you're concerned that they are interfering with your child's rest, consult your pediatrician about potential interventions.

3

Teen mental health is in crisis

Teen mental health declined drastically during the pandemic, according to a troubling new report from the CDC. A quarter of teens report feeling "persistently sad or hopeless," and one-fifth say they've contemplated suicide. The survey suggests that America's youth are "reeling from the pandemic, grappling with food insecurity, academic struggles, poor health, and abuse at home," reports Moriah Balingit in The Washington Post. LGBTQ students fared worse than their heterosexual peers, and girls reported worse mental health than boys, with more than one in four girls saying they seriously contemplated attempting suicide during the pandemic. But there is a glimmer of hope: Students who felt "close to people at school" were much less likely to experience suicidal ideation or poor mental health, highlighting the critical role that schools play in teen mental health.

4

The case for sober parenthood

American culture often encourages parents to lean on alcohol in order to cope with the challenges of parenting. But that habit can trap parents in a cycle of depression and anxiety, writes Laurie Bardon Syphard in Parents. And a glass of wine is a poor substitute for what many parents actually need: a break from caregiving. Bardon Syphard never had an alcohol use disorder, but she found that sobriety improved her confidence, patience, mental clarity, and sleep, while allowing her to shed some of the anxiety that built up over years of stress drinking. Other parents have found, somewhat counterintuitively, that the sober life better positions them to put themselves first. "Without numbing my feelings and using alcohol to escape uncomfortable moments, I know myself better and I am learning what is important to me as a mother," one mother reports.

5

The problem with "masking" autism

Many autistic people feel pressure to hide neurodivergent behaviors by forcing themselves to make eye contact, for example, or downplaying their own interests in favor of others. And while the desire to blend in is understandable, research suggests that the pressure to "mask" or "camouflage" one's autism takes a toll. "In adults, we've seen that higher levels of camouflaging are associated with greater levels of depression and anxiety, both general anxiety and social anxiety," says autism researcher Laura Hull. Masking has also been connected to burnout, exhaustion, and suicidal thoughts. So it's important that your child has safe spaces to "unmask" at home and school. If you notice masking behaviors, talk to your child about what's motivating them. Offer to help brainstorm ways to respond to pressure from adults to mask, or how to manage their own desire not to "stim" in front of peers.

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