The week's best parenting advice: June 29, 2021
How to encourage your kid to exercise, tips for palatable play, and more
How to encourage healthy exercise in kids
Exercise culture, especially for young girls, can be fraught with unhealthy narratives about self-worth and body image. "How do I encourage my children to be active, without making it an area of stress, or a chore?" asks Jessica Grose at NYT Parenting. First and foremost, don't force it, says clinical psychologist Matthew Myrvick. Let your child decide which activities they participate in. Praise effort, not outcome, so your kid learns to focus on things they can control rather than obsess over things they can't. And model healthy exercise behaviors at home. "Kids are smart, and they will notice the mirthless way that some adults view exercise," Grose says. Prioritize fun activities as a family. Myrvik, for example, has family dance parties with his kids.
How to make play more palatable
If you're one of the many parents who find playing with your kids to be an absolute chore, The Washington Post's Erika Silverstein has some good advice: "Reframe your expectations to understand that play is the parenting version of eating your vegetables," she writes. By this she means that you must accept that child's play isn't supposed to be fun for adults. But that doesn't mean it's pointless. It's an investment. "This is about connecting on their playing field, and that will pay off dividends," says Kenneth Ginsburg, director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. While you might find play dull, remember that it strengthens the child-parent bond, and is very good for your kid's well-being. Help yourself out by setting clear boundaries for play. "Pick a time when you have more to give, and set limits, so games don't go on for hours," Silverstein says.
Is there a silver lining to the pandemic for kids? Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer field this question from a reader at The Atlantic's Homeroom. Indeed, "this year has been tough for everyone, and children are no exception," they write. Each child will process the hardships of the pandemic differently, but for some, the experience may actually help build resilience and perspective. Suddenly a soccer game loss might not seem so serious; going to school might feel like a privilege, not a slog. "The job of teachers and parents is to do what we can to help kids find gratitude and opportunity in the life that awaits them." Parents should encourage their kids to "be proactive now that they can finally do what they missed most — whether that's playing with friends, hugging their grandparents, or simply going to school in person."
The airplane bento box
If you're hopping on a plane with a toddler in tow, you'll need a game plan for filling the time and keeping that kiddo entertained. Your best tool in this situation? Food. Lots and lots of food. Snacks keep kids happy and occupied, and the more you can turn snack time into an actual activity, the easier it'll be to pass the time. Jennifer Anderson at Kids Eat in Color created an ingenious "airplane bento box" using a repurposed plastic pill organizer and some stickers. Each box contains a different snack, and opening a new box feels a bit like opening a present. "This airplane bento box makes lunch time fun and last a long time," Anderson writes. "Plus, it has everything we need for no blood sugar crashes. I also let them eat the plane snacks brought by the attendants, but the food I bring helps balance it all out."
This too shall pass
Emily Oster, an economics professor and author of Expecting Better (among other parenting books), is admittedly data-obsessed. She wondered if, out of all the parenting advice that gets thrown around these days, there are any trends that emerge. "Is there some really best advice, or is the best advice really different for us all?" she pondered. To find out, she polled some 350 people on their best tips. The most common response? Some variation of "it will pass." "So much of early parenting, in particular, feels eternal in the hard moments, and there is something so helpful in recognizing that this will end," Oster writes at ParentData. "You won't be (this) tired forever, your child will not have this type of tantrum forever, they will eventually poop alone. A natural implication is to try to enjoy the good parts of right now, and not despair at the tough ones." The second most common tip? Don't sweat the small stuff.