Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: October 11, 2022

What we know about pandemic-induced developmental delays, your kid's obsession with death is normal, actually, and more

1

What we know about pandemic-induced developmental delays

Numerous articles have warned that babies born during the COVID era are experiencing developmental delays — but is there any truth to them? A close look at existing evidence suggests that COVID-19 increases the risk of preterm birth, which is in turn associated with heightened risk of a developmental delay diagnosis, writes Emily Oster in ParentData. As for other mechanisms of delay, such as parental stress, lack of socialization, limited exposure to child care, or masked child care providers, it's very hard to draw firm conclusions because the quality of research is wanting. "The bottom line here is that we simply do not have enough information to either fully dismiss the concern or to embrace it," writes Oster. "The various papers that scared you on this are flawed, but there isn't some large and highly reliable study that would end our concerns."

2

Your kid's obsession with death is normal, actually

If you have a young child expressing a worrisome degree of interest in death and gore, fear not, writes Meg St-Esprit in Romper. "It turns out that it's normal for little kids to be curious about death and gore — or even obsessed with it," writes St-Esprit. Around three or four, kids' understanding of abstract ideas like life and death becomes a little more concrete. In death, as in other topics of exploration, "young kids learn through repetition or fixations." In fact, your discomfort with a child's eagerness to discuss death may say more about you than it does them. There are limits, of course. "Asking questions, wondering about the process [of dying] and what happens afterward is normal," says psychiatrist Dr. Gauri Khurana. "Wanting to kill animals to understand it or repeatedly wishing that family members die would warrant assistance from a professional."

3

Is it okay to scare your kids?

"Kids can benefit from scary experiences under the right conditions," writes Gail Cornwall in Good Housekeeping. For one thing, the endorphin and adrenaline rush that comes with a good scaring can produce a natural high. And research suggests that non-threatening scary experiences like going to a haunted house can boost both mood and confidence. Plus, "scary experiences offer a low-cost way for children and adolescents to confront specific fears and fear itself," writes Cornwall. "They can learn to distinguish a real threat from something that just feels like one." All that said, experts strongly advise against exposing kids to extreme horror films that glorify villainy, or depict extreme violence or suicide plot-lines. Parents should never force a child to participate in a scary activity, and always make sure they know they aren't in any actual danger.

4

How to handle an extremely self-critical child

What is one to do with a child who self-criticizes and even "spanks" themselves? It's difficult to say, writes Meghan Leahy in The Washington Post. To find the root of such self-criticism, take note of "who is there when he self-attacks, what's happening, where is he, when does it occur and how often," writes Leahy. Then, take your child to the doctor for a full examination and lab, just to rule out allergic reactions or imbalances affecting his mood. Start a conversation with the child's school, which should be able to arrange a variety of assessments. And read up on highly reactive and anxious kids. "Hitting oneself, like hitting others, is an act of pent-up frustration," writes Leahy. "Your role as a loving parent is to help ease his frustrations, help him feel his big feelings and teach him to cope with the stress of simply being a human."

5

Yes, it's possible to have a math learning disorder

A lot of kids struggle with math, but some have an actual learning disability known as dyscalculia, writes Laura Wheatman Hill in Lifehacker. If your child continues to count on fingers long after their peers, struggles to commit multiplication tables to memory, has trouble applying math concepts to real life, or otherwise struggles with basic math concepts, it could be worth exploring the possibility that they've got dyscalculia. The learning disorder isn't as well known as others, so you can try approaching your child's school for an evaluation, but you may need to secure a private evaluation with a neuropsychologist. "Lots of processing issues can impact math — working memory issues, executive functioning, visual-spatial issues, long-term retrieval, etc..." says school psychologist Paulette Selman. In other words, "if dyscalculia is present, often another diagnosis, like dyslexia or ADHD, is as well," writes Wheatman Hill.

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