The week's best parenting advice: April 12, 2022
Why American teens are so sad, stop telling your kids to "be careful," and more
Why American teens are so sad
The share of American high-school students who say they feel "persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness" rose to 44 percent in 2021, up from 26 percent in 2009, and the highest rate ever recorded. Eating disorders, self-harming behavior, and teen suicides have also risen sharply over the past decade, and there isn't a single explanation for the troubling trend, writes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. It's partly due to social media, which drives obsessive thinking about body image and popularity, and also crowds out other beneficial activities, such as sleep and sports. But teens are also surrounded by an abundance of news sources reporting round the clock on bleak affairs — climate change, war, the pandemic. Parenting styles have become more overbearing. "Anxious parents, in seeking to insulate their children from risk and danger, are unintentionally transferring their anxiety to their kids," Thompson writes.
Stop telling your kids to "be careful"
It's natural to tell a child to "be careful" as they climb a tree or ride a scooter down a hill, but the phrase can do more harm than good, writes Sarah Showfety in Lifehacker. It's vague, overused, and instills unnecessary fear into the child's play. "While kids need to be aware of situational and physical risks, teaching them to be afraid of playing and other everyday activities can create a resistance to trying new things and a lack of self-trust over time," writes Showfety. Instead, help your child assess their surroundings by pointing out specific dangers such as slippery rocks or broken steps. If they are in a tricky position, ask them what their next move is, or offer suggestions for how they might get out of it. "Sometimes the best parenting is offering, "I'm here if you need me," and then getting out of the way," Showfety writes.
The difference between consequences and punishments
There's nothing wrong with using mild punishments to discipline your children, but emerging research suggests that "logical consequences" may be a better alternative, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer. Logical consequences stem from a child's choices, so if a child isn't taking care of his library books, for example, a parent will confiscate them. One recent analysis found that logical and natural consequences are far more effective at shaping children's behavior than disciplinary strategies such as time-outs or ignoring bad behavior. While punishments often seem unpredictable and unfair, which can stoke resentment, logical consequences help kids see how their choices affect others. And they "more clearly communicate why the behavior or choice was unacceptable, too, since the consequence is directly linked to the choice they made," Wenner Moyer writes.
Setting boundaries with grandparents
An involved grandparent is a blessing for parents and grandchildren alike, but it's easy enough for grandparents to forget that the parent is the ultimate authority figure for the child, writes Emily Edlynn in Parents. If you feel your child's grandparent has crossed a boundary, broach the topic "with curiosity instead of accusations or criticism, and then add empathy and perspective-taking," Edlynn writes. If the grandparent feels understood, they will be more likely to listen when you share your perspective. Have a conversation about what kind of grandparent they want to be and the supports they would like to provide. "She might see getting your son a haircut as a way to take something off your to-do list when you see it as overstepping. Clarifying these differences might even help you find common ground," Edlynn writes.
How to make a NICU stay less stressful
Nothing can prepare you for the anxiety of watching your newborn child whisked off to the NICU, but there are ways to make the experience less stressful, writes David McMillin in The Washington Post. Remember that your child is in very capable hands and resist the temptation to stay with them at the hospital 24/7, which can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Keep in mind that your child's progress may not be linear, and avoid getting too attached to a particular date for taking them home. "Erase the concept of time. Preterm babies have to satisfy a number of key life capabilities: gaining weight, eating by mouth, maintaining a temperature and avoiding any of those alarm-bell events. Focus on those milestones, and don't count the days on the calendar," writes McMillin. And avoid comparing your baby to others. Instead, "be everyone's cheerleader. They will be yours, too."