Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: October 4, 2022

The upside of a short attention span, the truth about rainbow fentanyl, and more

1

The upside of a short attention span

A child's inability to focus long enough to put their shoes on or hang up their coat can be deeply frustrating for parents, but "this wandering attention is an important part of the learning process — one that helps them make sense of an uncertain environment," writes Rachel Fairbank in Lifehacker. In a recent study, a group of adults and a group of 4- and 5-year-olds played a computer game in which they had to distinguish between two types of creatures. Halfway through the game, "the feature that differentiated these two creatures changed without the participants being told that the rules changed," writes Fairbank. The adults, who focused on the game more intently, took longer than their preschool counterparts to catch onto the unannounced change. "Having an attention span that wanders all over the place helps them notice all sorts of details" that help children operate in an unfamiliar world.

2

The truth about rainbow fentanyl

In August, the DEA issued a press release warning parents about the dangers of "rainbow fentanyl," a colorful version of the drug that the agency insisted "is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction" among children. "But while the dangers of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, rainbow or otherwise, cannot be overstated, harm reduction experts and others are assuring parents not to panic," writes Jamie Kenney in Romper. Colorful drugs have been around for decades, and the DEA has yet to provide any evidence that the drugs are being targeted at children. Parents may understandably worry about accidental ingestion, but it's highly doubtful that these expensive drugs will end up in a child's Halloween candy. "Parents should, of course, be mindful of this newer, more colorful threat," writes Kenney. "But panic, it seems, is not necessary."

3

Should kids with lice skip school?

Head lice are annoying, but according to new recommendations for the American Academy of Pediatrics, they aren't a reason to stay home from school. Instead, schools should let kids with lice stay in the classroom, while managing the insects with topical treatments like shampoos and lotions. Screening kids for lice at school hasn't done much to decrease their spread. And despite popular belief, lice don't spread easily from person to person. "Lice don't jump like mosquitos," writes Beth Ann Mayer in Parents. "The most significant risk comes from direct head-to-head contact with an individual with head lice." And personal hygiene has nothing to do with it. "Lice prefer kids' hair because the shafts are typically thinner and straighter than adults'."

4

The link between air pollution and brain development

A recent study adds to the growing body of research suggesting that air pollution can harm kids' brain development. Using data from 1,967 mothers recruited during pregnancy from Memphis, Minneapolis; Rochester, San Francisco, Seattle, and Yakima, the researchers found that "children whose mothers experienced higher nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exposure during pregnancy, particularly in the first and second trimester, were more likely to have behavioral problems," reports Science Daily. The study also linked heightened exposure to pollutants between the ages of two and four with poorer behavior and cognitive performance. "This study underscores the importance of air pollution as a preventable risk factor for healthy child neurodevelopment," said senior author Dr. Catherine Karr, a professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health and School of Medicine.

5

Is Montessori preschool actually better?

Montessori is all the rage, but is it actually better than other preschool philosophies? It's difficult to say, writes Emily Oster in ParentData. Papers that compare children who go to Montessori preschools with other children are "effectively meaningless," Oster writes. "Yes, the kids who go to Montessori test better later, but they are also advantaged in all kinds of other difficult-to-control-for ways." Plus, when the Montessori method was first developed in the early 1900s in Italy, it sharply contrasted with the scant education available to children at the time. Today, it's much harder to distinguish "Montessori" preschools from any other preschool. Plenty of schools use Montessori materials, and mixed-age classrooms. Whether Montessori preschools are "better" depends on what you are hoping your child accomplishes, and unlike primary school, there's no consensus on what preschoolers should be learning. "A different focus will lead to different outcomes."

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