The week's best parenting advice: October 18, 2022
The pros and cons of gamifying parenthood, don't be too hard on your moody teen, and more
The pros and cons of gamifying parenthood
On a family vacation last summer, Josh Wilbur started awarding "experience points" to his stepkids in order to get them to do their chores. Before long, the experiment had developed into a full-blown video-game-in-real-life, with levels and rewards — and it worked, but was it a good idea? On one hand, such games simplify choices in a way that can be clarifying for kids. On the other, relying too heavily on external motivators — "the short-term, high-carb-candy-bar version of motivation" — can dampen a child's capacity for internal motivation, and make them feel like your love for them is conditional. "Essentially, to parent through rewards is to play with the levers of a child's dopamine," writes Wilbur, "This can be effective as long as it's done with the goal of building up children's autonomy rather than bending them to our parental will."
Don't be too hard on your moody teen
A recent survey found that parents who manage to maintain a warm relationship with their teens are more likely to stay close with them as adults — but that's easier said than done, writes Rachel Fairbank in Lifehacker. "The adolescent years is a period of life when you want adolescents to pursue independence and autonomy," said Shichen Fang, who co-authored the study. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this transition tends to coincide with a decline in parent-child relationship quality. "Parents often express less warmth and affection, spend less time with their teens, and become more harsh in their discipline," Greg Fosco, who also worked on the study. While these changes are understandable, Fosco and Fang's findings suggest that resisting them may help to preserve the relationship in the long run.
Bivalent boosters for kids
Children as young as five are now able to receive updated COVID-19 boosters "as long as they're at least two months past their primary vaccine series or last booster dose," reports Jamie Gumbrecht at CNN. Children between the ages of 5 and 11 will receive a 10-microgram dose of the bivalent booster, which offers protection from both the original coronavirus strain, as well as more recent variants. "While it has largely been the case that COVID-19 tends to be less severe in children than adults, as the various waves of COVID-19 have occurred, more children have gotten sick with the disease and have been hospitalized. Children may also experience long-term effects, even following initially mild disease," Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said. "We encourage parents to consider primary vaccination for children and follow-up with an updated booster dose when eligible."
What to do when your child comments on someone's appearance in public
So you're out with your toddler, who loudly points out that someone in earshot is "really fat." What do you do? Rather than scolding the child, the best course of action is to simply and matter-of-factly acknowledge the observation while emphasizing that humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes and that that's "totally fine," writes Megan Margulies in Parents. That said, it's probably best to teach kids to avoid commenting on other people's appearances, as even positive comments can be harmful or unwelcome. "You're not trying to shame your child for noticing differences," child and adolescent psychologist Lori Fishman, "but you can also let the child know [their comments] can hurt other people's feelings."
Kids over eight should be screened for anxiety, health panel says
Primary care doctors should screen all children ages 8 to 18 for anxiety, according to new guidelines from The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of medical experts whose recommendations influence standards of care. "In making its recommendations, the task force hopes to reduce the number of children whose mental health conditions go undetected and untreated," reports Catherine Pearson in the New York Times. "The earlier you identify symptoms, the earlier you intervene, and that reduces the amount of time a child is suffering," said pediatrician Cori Green. The new guidelines are not legally binding, and don't specify what tools should use to screen kids, but the hope is that doctors will screen kids regularly at their annual check-ups.