Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: June 21, 2022

Finally, a COVID vaccine for toddlers, the power of play, and more

1

Finally, a COVID vaccine for toddlers

At long last, children under five are eligible for a COVID vaccine. "The approval of a three-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and a two-dose Moderna vaccine came down after deliberation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) based on the recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as its own expert panel," writes Jamie Kenney in Romper. Initial research suggests that Pfizer's three-dose vaccine is 80 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID. The Moderna vaccine is a little less effective at preventing symptomatic infection, but met the FDA and CDC thresholds of efficacy.

2

The power of play

Children who learn to play well with others at a young age are less likely to develop mental health issues down the road, a new study shows. Analyzing data that tracked the development of 1,676 Australian children, researchers at the University of Cambridge found that "children with a higher peer play ability score at age three consistently showed fewer signs of mental health difficulties at age seven." Even after accounting for risk factors like poverty and maternal distress, kids with peer play ability were at a lower risk for hyperactivity, or problems with conduct, emotions, or peers. "The consistent link between peer play and mental health probably exists because playing with others supports the development of emotional self-control and socio-cognitive skills, such as the ability to understand and respond to other people's feelings," reports Science Daily. "These are fundamental to building stable, reciprocal friendships."

3

Don't fret over your only child

When you have an only child, it's easy to obsess over how a childhood without siblings will shape them as adults. "You can go down an Adlerian rabbit hole about birth order and all of its peccadilloes, but beware," writes Meghan Leahy in The Washington Post. "If you are prone to anxiety and worry, you will use only children data to abuse yourself and create future scenarios full of doom and gloom." Instead, seek out advice for handling specific concerns and then leave the rest. And above all, remember that, siblings or not, children are children. "Yes, it is easy for singletons to rule the roost and, yes, they can mature quickly due to their heavy adult interaction, but don't worry about these things...just stay aware," writes Leahy. "Every human has their challenges...don't buy into the stereotypes."

4

When to tell your child they're autistic

When it comes to telling your child about their autism diagnosis, the earlier the better, writes Rachel Crowell in Fatherly. In a new study, researchers surveyed 78 autistic college students and found that the ones who were told about their diagnosis at a younger age had a higher quality of life as adults. The diagnosis helps autistic kids make sense of their experiences. "Knowing about their diagnosis can help some autistic children understand why they have delayed speech or are nonspeaking, why they hate making eye contact even though their siblings don't mind doing so, or why they struggle with changes to their routine," writes Crowell. "Having that understanding could be why they grow into adults who have a higher quality of life."

5

Another reason to get a dog

Spending time with dogs can ease children's stress, writes Catherine Pearson in The New York Times. A new study "found that twice-weekly sessions with a dog and its handler significantly lowered children's levels of cortisol — the body's stress hormone — which they measured through saliva samples," writes Pearson. The dog sessions were better at dampening stress than guided relaxation sessions. Of course, canine therapy is different from dog ownership. "There is a difference between a trained animal and a household pet," said  child psychiatrist Dr. Arun Handa. "That being said, it's not unreasonable that household pets can provide some kind of comfort and support."

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