The week's best parenting advice: June 1, 2021
Secret family languages, the popular new fidget toy, and more
Does your family have a "secret language"? Inside jokes, pet names, or invented words and phrases that make perfect sense to you, but might be interpreted as utter nonsense by a stranger? As Kathryn Hymes writes at The Atlantic, these languages have a name: "familects." Most families have them, and from an anthropological perspective, they serve to bring us closer to one another. "Familects help us feel like family," Hymes writes. "Private in-group language fosters intimacy and establishes identity." Perhaps unsurprisingly, children are often the "architects" of these words and phrases, Hymes says. "As kids fumble and play with sounds and meaning, their cutesy word experiments can be picked up by the whole family, sometimes to be passed on between generations as verbal heirlooms of sorts."
Move over, fidget spinner
Fidget toys — gadgets designed to provide a sensory experience that may "help kids to focus and manage emotions" — have been around for a while now (remember fidget spinners?). The newest iteration comes in the form of the "Pop it," which is "a silicone-based tray of half-sphere 'bubbles' that can be pushed in, thrilling kids with the resulting popping sound," writes Sarah Ayoub at The Guardian. Pop its are extremely popular, in part because they've taken off on TikTok and YouTube, Ayoub reports. But are they actually therapeutic? Maybe. There's not much research on how fidgeting helps children, but "people say that fidgets help them to pay attention and focus, and they also say fidgets can help them calm down or work with feelings like anger," says Katherine Isbister, professor of computational media at the University of California.
How to travel with unvaccinated kids
Coronavirus infection rates are plummeting in the U.S. as the vaccine rollout continues. While the CDC says fully-vaccinated people can travel without the need for quarantine or tests, families with young, unvaccinated kids are advised to avoid travel entirely. If you must travel, Jenn Sinrich at Fatherly shares some best practices for playing it safe. For example, consider booking a direct flight so you can "limit the need to change planes and walk through busy airports." Eat before you board, "so that you don't have to take off your mask when you're sitting so close to fellow travelers." And before you even book tickets, check the COVID-19 transmission rate at your destination. "If the intended destination has a high rate of spread, families should be extra cautious when they are out in public," says Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a pediatrician at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Are you open?
Single mom Destini Ann is all about "positive parenting," and she uses her TikTok account to spread the word about parenting phrases that can set boundaries, but also reinforce empathy and validate a kid's feelings. One of Destiny's favorite phrases is "Are you open?", which she deploys when her child is venting about a difficult encounter or event, and Destiny wants to share some of her own advice. "Are you open?" is short for "Are you open to my thoughts?" Asking this "opens the floor for receptivity, because I gave her respect first, I didn't just barge in with my opinion," Destiny explains. It also lets the child choose whether this was a learning moment, or just a moment to vent. And sometimes, Destiny's daughter is definitely not open. "I'll be like 'Alright, well whenever you are open, I'm here if you wanna talk.' And she loves that."
Post-pandemic empty nest
"Many young adults moved back in with their parents during the pandemic," writes Julie Halpert at The New York Times. "Now the parents are facing a second exodus." In other words, it's Empty Nest Syndrome all over again, and many parents are finding it even harder this time around. "This was worse than freshman year," says Katie Collins, whose 22-year-old daughter stayed with her for 11 months. Social workers share some coping mechanisms with Halpert, including "taking back your home" by reorganizing, and filling your time with lots of activities to shift your focus a bit. But if you're experiencing a post-pandemic empty nest, don't ignore the feelings, says social worker Billye J. Jones. "Sitting with the sadness and allowing yourself the space to grieve that" is important, she says.