The week's best parenting advice: August 16, 2022
Why kids struggle with politeness, the roots of mom guilt, and more
Why kids struggle with politeness
Politeness doesn't come naturally to kids, writes Melinda Wenner Moyer, so don't worry if your child is struggling with it. "Sure, altruism might be hard-wired, but the details of what to say and do in specific social situations is not," Wenner Moyer explains. Plus, parents often prompt their kids to say "please" and "thank you" without offering much of an explanation, so some children don't actually know what the words mean. And unlike when a child lets you know they want a lollipop or that their finger hurts, "please" and "thank you" don't typically reflect any underlying wants or needs. Unfortunately, there is no secret hack for encouraging your kids to be polite: just keep prompting your kids to say the magic words, set a good example by saying them yourself — and don't forget to explain why we say them in the first place.
The roots of mom guilt
Under the pressure to raise successful kids, it's easy for parents to blame themselves for all of their children's struggles, writes Amy Paturel in The Washington Post. "Mom guilt" is rooted in the desire for parents to feel control over their child's livelihood. "With this sort of 'magical thinking,' if you're the cause, then you can be the solution," says psychotherapist Dana Dorfman. And to some extent, the tendency to search for the cause of our kids' problems in our own behavior is a good thing — it can help us to become better parents. But it can be self-defeating when it isn't paired with self-compassion; Shame can harm a parent's mental health, and even interfere with the parent-child relationship. "You wouldn't tell your friend she's responsible for her child's autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or mental health problems," writes Paturel, "so don't berate yourself for your children's maladies."
New COVID guidance for schools just dropped
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased recommended protocols for curbing the spread of COVID in schools on the grounds that the vast majority of Americans have some immunity to the virus. The new guidance recommends universal masking in schools when community transmission is high, and "students who are sick from or exposed to the virus should wear face coverings for 10 days, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or previously infected," reports Juliana Kim in NPR. But the CDC no longer recommends routine testing in K-12 schools (unless transmission in the area is high), or quarantines for students exposed to the virus. That said, the CDC also urges schools to "avoid policies that incentivize coming to school while sick."
Supporting your child's mental health when you can't find a therapist
Youth mental health is in crisis, and there aren't enough therapists to go around. "What can parents do in the absence of promptly available care?" asks Jessica Grose in The New York Times. "Though it is not the same as good psychotherapy, don't underestimate the power of the basics," says psychologist Lisa Damour. "Making sure your young person is getting enough sleep, they're getting enough physical activity, they're eating a balanced diet… These things go further than we sometimes expect." It may also be worth trying out books or online resources, particularly those rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy. "The body of research on the effectiveness of [internet-delivered C.B.T. programs] is "incredibly strong," writes Grose. Even if your child seems uninterested in such tools, it's worth looking into them "so you can be prepared if they do come around."
What to do if your teen is in a bad relationship
About 1 in 12 high school students who dated in 2019 experienced physical or sexual violence, according to the CDC, so it's important for parents to be on the lookout for signs that your teen is in an unhealthy relationship, writes Laura Wheatman Hill in Lifehacker. Red flags might include things like excessive jealousy or controlling behavior, or changes in your own child's mood and behavior. Unfortunately, calling your teen's relationship into question may serve to alienate them. One way to avoid such a circumstance is to talk to your kids about "what a good relationship looks like" well before they start dating. But if that ship has sailed, raise your concerns it in a non-confrontational manner, and "do not force an immediate response," says psychologist Fatima Watt. "These conversations may be needed on multiple occasions over time, rather than all at once."