Parenting advice

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

New breastfeeding guidelines just dropped, the difference between 'active shooter drills' and 'lockdown drills,' and more

1

New breastfeeding guidelines just dropped

New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say mothers should breastfeed for two years or more, twice as long as previous guidelines suggested, reports Jen McGuire in Romper. The updated guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding through the first six months of a baby's life, followed by nursing paired with "nutritious complementary foods" for the next year and a half. The AAP acknowledged that allowing mothers to follow the guidelines will require "social and systemic changes," such as universal paid parental leave. "Breast milk is unique in its nutrients and protective effects, and really quite remarkable when you look at what it does for a child's developing immune system," said the report's lead author Joan Younger Meek.

2

The difference between 'active shooter drills' and 'lockdown drills'

"Active shooter drills" are not the same as "lockdown drills," and the difference matters, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer. "Active shooter drill" is an ill-defined term encompassing a wide range of simulation exercises that we have good reason to suspect are developmentally inappropriate and unhelpful. "Lockdown drills," on the other hand, "are used anytime there are potential threats inside the building (angry parents, angry students, wild animals), and the drills help kids prepare for and practice a strategy that will maintain distance between themselves and that threat," writes Wenner Moyer. These latter drills typically involve locking doors, turning off the lights, getting out of sight, and staying quiet, which can save lives in the event of a shooting; School shooters, for example, rarely kill kids behind locked doors. More research is needed, but some evidence suggests that these traditional drills can help parents and children feel less scared and more prepared.

3

Anger is okay, actually

Anger has a bad reputation, but it's a natural human emotion, and learning to express it is important, writes Catherine Pearson in The New York Times. To aid this process, help your children develop a broad emotional vocabulary by reading books about emotions and engaging them in conversation about what various characters might be feeling. Using a feelings thermometer can also help children wrap their heads around anger. Be honest with your children when you are angry and show them how you cope with the feeling, saying out loud that you are going to take a few deep breaths or get some water. "Whatever it is you need in that moment, speak it out loud and help them understand what is happening," said child and family psychologist Jazmine McCoy. And help your children find their own (safe) coping mechanisms, such as pounding Play-Doh, ripping up paper, or knocking down blocks.

4

The truth about teens and cannabis

Teenagers are at a heightened risk of cannabis addiction, but not necessarily other mental health problems associated with the drug, according to a new study. Tracking the pot use and mental health of 274 participants, including 76 teenagers, researchers found that adolescent cannabis users were "three and a half times as likely to develop severe 'cannabis use disorder' (addiction) than adult users," a finding that lines up with previous research on the subject. However, the adolescent study participants were no more likely to have higher levels of subclinical depression or anxiety, or display psychotic-like symptoms, than adults who use cannabis. "There is a lot of concern about how the developing teenage brain might be more vulnerable to the long-term effects of cannabis, but we did not find evidence to support this general claim," said lead author Dr. Will Lawn.

5

Emotional neglect takes many forms

Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) occurs when a child's emotional needs aren't fulfilled, but it takes various forms, writes Samantha Nazzi in Lifehacker. Emotional neglect is a passive and often difficult-to-notice brushing off of a child's emotions. Emotional invalidation is "an active process of negating, criticizing, or overruling a child's feelings," writes Nazzi. Passive neglect teaches children that their feelings aren't important, and can leave them without the ability to process their emotions properly. Active emotional invalidation can produce an entrenched shame that leads children to stifle their feelings. Both forms of CEN can have long-lasting consequences, putting kids at a higher risk for a variety of mental health disorders. "Adults who have experienced emotional neglect are more likely to have symptoms of social withdrawal, avoidance of intimacy, difficulty with relationships, difficulty managing emotions, low self esteem, hopelessness and stunted coping styles," said child psychologist Dr. Stephanie Wolf.

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