The week's best parenting advice: March 10, 2020
Parenting during a pandemic, the biggest parenting myth, and more
Parenting during a pandemic
As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to spread in America, it's easy to get swept up in a parental panic. So, just how much should you alter your routine? Not much just yet, according to Dr. Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. As he told Jessica Grose at NYT Parenting, unless your community is experiencing a fast-spreading outbreak, "we're not recommending a lot of changes." You and your kids can still go out in public, so long as everybody washes their hands afterward. "Kids should sing 'Happy Birthday' twice to know how long to wash their hands," Grose suggests. If your child develops mild symptoms — like a sore throat, cough, or fever — don't rush to the hospital, Grose says. Instead, call your pediatrician. And try not to worry about your kiddo's runny nose: "From what we know so far, runny noses — which are a near-constant among preschoolers — are rarely a symptom of infection with the new coronavirus."
Keep calm and carry on
"I am a 7th-grade English teacher, and fear of the new coronavirus has gripped my students," writes Indiana teacher Angela Sheffield at Chalkbeat. To dispel fears and prevent wild rumors from spreading, she created a chart where kids listed what they knew about the virus, what they wanted to know, and what they learned. "Soon it was evident that much of what my students thought were facts were actually suspicions, conjectures, or just plain falsehoods," Sheffield says. She listened to students' fears, answered their questions as best she could, and then tasked them with developing an outbreak action plan for their school. Proposals included wiping down desks, timed hand-washing sessions, and reducing hallway crowding. "The whole class will continue to brainstorm efforts to curb the virus and keep panic at bay," Sheffield says. "Because taking a few minutes from our regularly scheduled lessons to name our fears and address them is time well spent."
Does it actually get easier?
"I'm not usually one to take unsolicited parenting advice," writes Claire Gillespie at The Week. But when she was struggling to stay afloat while raising a toddler and a baby, and a fellow parent told her it would "get easier," she clung to the idea. "Nine years later and I'm still waiting for it to get easier," she says. So is this common mother-to-mother mantra actually a myth? As kids age, they become less physically demanding of their parents: They no longer need feeding, or carrying, or potty training. But these physical needs are swapped for emotional ones: They need help navigating peer groups, making the right decisions about sex, alcohol, and drugs, and coping with heartbreak. "When it comes to the struggles of toddlers versus teens, I don't think it necessarily gets easier," says Erin Royer-Asrilant, who has a master's degree in psychology with a specialty in child development and family relationships. But, she says, "A parent who sets a strong foundation, starting in toddlerhood and continuing through adolescence, will weather all stages of their child's development process."
There's no I in team
Team sports can be extremely beneficial for kids, staving off social anxiety and depression and even enhancing school performance, according to researchers. But what if your kid just isn't interested? This was the case for Hilary Achauer, whose daughter dabbled in soccer and swimming, and whose son "couldn't break his habit of slowing down as he approached first base." Her advice for parents in similar positions? Don't get hung up on the team aspect — it's physical activity that matters most. "One of the best things you can do is to be an example of physical activity and movement yourself," she says at The Week. "If you want your kids to be active, they should see you enjoying movement." Let them try lots of new activities to see what sticks. For her daughter, it was dance. For her son, it was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. "It turns out it wasn't physical activity or even discomfort they disliked," she says. "It was just team sports."
Do as I say, not as I do
Teenagers are notoriously bad drivers, but tech companies are trying to make them better with "apps that act as back-seat drivers, informing parents how fast their teens are going and how hard they are braking," writes Julie Jargon at The Wall Street Journal. Such apps include Life360, which also monitors behind-the-wheel phone usage. Bianca Woodberry told the Journal her family uses the app to turn safe driving into a competition, but she was in for a shock when the app told her she uses her phone while driving more than her teenage son does. Indeed, Jargon reports that data shows 37 percent of parents use mobile apps while driving compared with 38 percent of teens. "And the main reason teens use their phones while driving or stopped at red lights? Replying to texts from their parents."