Parenting advice

The week's best parenting advice: February 25, 2020

How coronavirus affects kids, the truth about tweens and screens, and more

1

How dangerous is coronavirus for kids?

The coronavirus crisis continues, with more than 2,500 fatalities. But as NPR reports, the number of reported cases in children is surprisingly low. "We're seeing [about] 75,000 total cases at this point, but the literature is only reporting about 100 or so pediatric cases," Terri Lynn Stillwell, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, tells Morning Edition. One small study of infected infants in Wuhan, China, found that the virus presented as a "very mild illness," causing a fever and cough but no severe complications in the children. It's much more dangerous — and deadly — for elderly patients. Researchers aren't sure why young children seem more resilient to the virus, but Sallie Permar, a professor of pediatrics and immunology at Duke University School of Medicine, told NPR it could come down to antibodies passed along from mothers.

2

Don't blame Facebook

There's a lot of hysteria about social media hurting kids' mental health. Is it warranted? Maybe not, says Claire Gillespie at The Week. In a recent paper published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers looked closely at 40 studies that examined the connection between social media use and anxiety or depression during adolescence. Their conclusion? The link is small and inconsistent. In fact, children's therapist Katie Lear tells Gillespie, banning social media use entirely could backfire. "Technology is an inevitable part of modern life, and children need to feel included in their peer group," Lear says. "They may feel more connected and more able to share personal information with people who can validate their experience." There are, of course, many other ways to help nurture kids' mental health. "Parents' priorities should be making sure their kids have a balanced, healthy friendship circle, take part in active exercise, and have plenty of face-to-face social interaction," Gillespie says.

3

The shock of new parenthood

Greta Gerwig is an acclaimed actor, director, playwright, and screenwriter. She's also a new mother. The 36-year-old gave birth to her first child, a son, late last year. In a recent interview with ELLE, Gerwig spoke candidly about the startling transition to motherhood. "Whatever you were prepared for, none of it is how you think," she says. "You have to believe that, alongside your new life, your older life is going to continue — and then you realize with stunning clarity that that's not true. I think you have to not know that, to be able to do it." This is reminiscent of a NYT Parenting piece in which Lindsey Hunter Lopez asked: "Is there any way to emotionally prepare for parenthood?" Clearly the answer is a resounding "no," but she did have some good tips. For example: Let go of your idealized expectations of parenthood, prepare for things to get a bit tough, and perhaps most importantly, have a strong support system in place. After all, it takes a village.

4

Beyond the worksheet

"Real-world math can be messy," writes Kara Newhouse for KQED's Mindshift. Yet math assignments often come in the form of "neat and tidy" worksheets. Newhouse spoke to Jonathan Estey, a teacher at a Philadelphia public magnet school called Science Leadership Academy, about the benefits of project-based learning, in which students "apply real data to hands-on projects." For example, students might be tasked with building a cool catapult using algebra to calculate its launching capabilities. Or they could create personal financial plans using exponential functions. The point is to tailor the projects to be as real and relevant for students as possible, so they become invested and see their own interests reflected in their calculations. This increased engagement leads to a better grasp on the subject. "Even when students complain about the amount of work, it's a lot more motivating for them to believe they have something to say at the end of a math project," Estey says.

5

Roald Dahl wrote that?

There's so much joy in sharing your favorite childhood books with your own kids. But what if those books contain some wildly outdated messaging? Ruth Margolis faced this dilemma recently while reading Roald Dahl's Matilda with her 7-year-old daughter. "I couldn't wait to jump in all over again," she writes at The Week. "What I wasn't expecting to find, diving back into this and other childhood favorites, was more than a mild sprinkling of sexism." Racism is also rampant in many of the kids' classics of yore. Should parents banish these books from their libraries? No need, experts say. Instead, use them as teachable moments. "You have to begin anti-racist education and anti-discrimination education as soon as you can," Philip Nel, author of Was the Cat in the Hat Black? told The Washington Post. "Racist classics of children's literature — read in context — can provide an opportunity for education."

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