The week's best parenting advice: April 19, 2022
Let your kids play in the rain, squirmy pandemic kids return to classrooms, and more
Let your kids play in the rain
There are a lot of great reasons to let your kids play in the rain, writes Abi Berwager Schreier in Romper. Rain play teaches kids a valuable life lesson: "Even if your current situation in life is difficult and rainy, learn to still be happy, dance, and have fun," says pediatrician Daniel Ganjian. It also helps them develop physical skills, because "they have to manage risks and evaluate different activities, like knowing when not to slip and how to avoid a big puddle that they might fall into," writes Schreier. Contrary to popular thought, you can't catch a cold from the rain — colds are from viruses. And while cold weather can lower your immune system, making children more susceptible to viruses, exercise actually boosts the immune system, so just make sure everyone dresses for the elements. "There truly is no such thing as bad weather — just bad clothing."
Pandemic kids are struggling to sit still
Teachers around the country are reporting that kindergartners and elementary school students lack basic skills like cutting scissors along a dotted line, tying their shoes, or squeezing a glue bottle, writes Hannah Natanson in The Washington Post. They are also struggling to stay quiet or sit in a circle during storytime. "There's a huge gap that goes beyond the academics, it has to do with social and emotional components and just how to behave in school," said Dan Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. But since many of America's youngest kids missed out on over a year of in-person instruction during the pandemic, these developments aren't unsurprising, said Frank Keil, a Yale professor of psychology who studies how children interpret the world. "A huge part of early schooling in the U.S. is being socialized, learning to sit still, and listen quietly," he said.
The key to raising well-behaved kids
What's the secret to raising well-behaved kids? Setting clear expectations, write Robin Westen and Thayer Allyson Gowdy in Parents. "When you make your expectations clear from the time your children are toddlers, they internalize those expectations and begin to expect the same thing from themselves," says Sharon K. Hall, author of Raising Kids in the 21st Century. Set well-defined boundaries for your kids, and offer simple explanations for why those boundaries exist, which will help them understand that they aren't arbitrary. Praise them when they observe the rules, and if they don't, talk them through their discomfort and guilt, which is an essential part of learning right from wrong. "Use it as a teaching opportunity," suggests Dr. Hall. "Say, 'I know you're feeling bad. We all make mistakes, but we try to learn how to act next time.'"
Do parents cause eating disorders?
Parents, and specifically mothers, have been accused of causing eating disorders practically since the American public first learned about them, but research suggests that blame is somewhat misplaced, writes Margaret Wheeler Johnson in Romper. Genetics account for 40 to 60 percent of one's chance of developing an eating disorder. It's possible that childhood experiences can make it more likely that someone with a genetic predisposition develops an eating disorder, but it's important to remember that "genetic risk lies on a continuum," said Cynthia Bulik, founding director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. "Someone with high genetic risk might only need (for example) a little push from society (like one diet) in order to develop an ED; whereas someone with low genetic risk might require a much more forceful push (multiple diets, teasing, bullying, abusive experiences)."
Avoid weight talk at the doctor's office
Discussing weight in your child's presence likely does more harm than good — even if you're at the doctor's office, writes Julia Pelly in Parents. "Weight gain, growth, and growth charts are complex and sometimes confusing," says registered dietitian Anna M. Lutz. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) similarly recommends avoiding weight-talk in front of adolescents, because "it's more likely to cause disordered eating than it is to support healthy lifestyle choices." And while that recommendation was directed toward adolescents specifically, the report also notes that physicians have observed eating disorders in children as young as 5. So call the doctor's office ahead of an appointment for clarity on how to touch base about weight concerns without the child present.