The week's best parenting advice: October 25, 2022
What we're getting wrong about the teenage years, the false allure of fancy baby products, and more
What we're getting wrong about the teenage years
The teenage years get a bad rap, but they are misunderstood, writes Kristen Mei Chase in The Washington Post. "There are two astoundingly rapid times of human development: 0 to 3 years old and the adolescent years," says pediatrician Kenneth R. Ginsburg. "If adults are not involved in the adolescent years, they are missing an opportunity." While it may feel like your teen doesn't care what you think, "every piece of research" says the opposite. That said, adolescence is a time when kids must learn to become independent, which is scary. "They have to go through a temporary period where they imagine not needing you, even hating you, so that they can learn to fly on their own," says Ginsburg. How you respond to that hurtful but developmentally appropriate rejection matters. "If you say, 'Well, you know what? I reject you back,' you've lost."
The false allure of fancy baby products
In a world of product reviews and recommendation lists, it's easy to obsess over every purchase we make for our kids, writes Annie Midori Atherton in The Atlantic. After Midori Atherton got pregnant, her social media feeds were awash with products promising to maximize child well-being. Such marketing plays into the appealing notion that parents can guarantee happiness for their child by buying the right things. "The products promise a shimmer of control over a process that's filled with uncertainty," writes Atherton. "I may not be able to shield our child from bullies and climate disaster, or pay private-school tuition, but a $96 stacking rainbow? That's (more) within my reach." But there's little evidence that top-of-the-line gear makes much of a difference in the life of a child. So while it may feel luxurious to have all the nicest baby gear, it probably isn't particularly consequential.
Some reassuring data on COVID vaccines for little kids
About 1.5 million children under the age of five have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and according to data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a miniscule number had serious negative reactions, writes Emily Oster in ParentData. The system reports 1,931 incidents for kids under five years old, 831 of which did not include any negative health outcomes (instead reporting things like incorrect dose timing). In other words, only 1 in about 1,370 children vaccinated had a negative reaction, most of which involved routine symptoms, such as "fever, rash, injection-site pain or swelling, nausea, and diarrhea," writes Oster. "There are 28 hospitalizations reported in the data, or about 1 for every 53,000 vaccine doses." Four events involved a seizure, and two Guillain-Barre's syndrome. "These cases all resolved, and, again, as a share of 1.5 million children vaccinated, these events are extremely rare."
How to reconnect with your child
It's rare for a child to state plainly that they feel disconnected from a parent. Instead, they tend to shut down or misbehave in a bid for attention, writes Christian Dashiell in Fatherly. If that sounds like your child, find a few 15-minute windows a week to engage in child-directed play. Try to ask fewer questions, which can make children think we're not hearing them, and offer more commentary that keeps the conversation moving. Lean into your kid's silliness every once in a while, which lets them know that you see and accept them. Even apologizing for past parenting mistakes offers a meaningful opportunity for reconnection. And, yes, try deliberately setting your phone aside every once in a while. "Kids feel more valued when they don't feel like they're being multitasked," writes Dashiell.
The challenge of disciplining a sensitive child
Discipline is tricky for all kids, but especially for sensitive ones, who feel both good and bad emotions very strongly, writes Rachel Fairbank in Lifehacker. "Given the intensities of their feelings, disciplining a highly sensitive child may feel especially fraught, as it can kick off yet another emotional roller-coaster," writes Fairbank. But it's not a good idea to avoid disciplining your child to avoid a meltdown, which only denies them an important opportunity to learn and grow. Instead, "talking about feelings and behaviors in small steps, striving to approach this with empathy and curiosity." That means de-escalating the situation before getting into the learning, processing, and problem-solving portion. And keep in mind that the strong emotions the child experiences are not the problem — they just need to learn to process them in a healthy manner.